Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 10/11/14

Saturday: Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a dolphin. A dolphin? The constellation Delphinus the dolphin is nearly six fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 8:30 p.m. The constellation’s two brightest stars are called Sualocin and Rotanev, which is Nicolaus Venator spelled backwards. Venator worked at the Palermo Observatory in Italy in the mid nineteenth century. He slipped these names into Giuseppe Piazzi’s star catalog without him noticing. The Daily Record (shop Ellensburg) would never let anything like that get into their newspaper. Their editing (shop Ellensburg) staff is too good. Nothing (pohs grubsnellE) evades their gaze.

Sunday: The constellation Vulpecula, the fox, stands high in the south at nightfall. It is in the middle of the Summer Triangle, which is defined by the stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair. The fox is so faint that you need dark skies to see it.

Monday: Saturn is a half a fist above the west-southwest horizon and Mars is one fist above the south-southwest horizon at 7 p.m. Over the next few weeks, Saturn will move towards the Sun in the sky while Mars will hold a fairly steady position.

Tuesday: What time is tea time? Certainly not during an autumn evening. The constellation Sagittarius the archer, with its signature teapot shape, is sinking into the south-southwest horizon by 8 p.m. The handle is on top and the spout is touching the horizon ready to pour that last cup of tea.

Wednesday: According to the Maasai people in southern Kenya, Olapa, the goddess of the moon, is married to Ngai, the god of the Sun. The argumentative couple can be seen 90 degrees apart from each other all morning. Only the left side of Olapa’s face is illuminated. Hummm. 90 degrees apart in the morning sky. Left side of the moon illuminated. It must be a third quarter, also called last quarter, moon.

Thursday: If the Dawn spacecraft didn’t know any better, it may have played “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: “It’s like a jungle sometimes. It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under”. That’s because most movies show an asteroid belt as millions of large rocks close together, moving through space and difficult to navigate. A “jungle” of asteroids. In reality, the objects in the asteroid belt are far apart from each other and easy for Dawn to move through without danger. Follow the trail of the dawn spacecraft using images found at

Friday: Jupiter is less than a fist to the left of the moon at 7 a.m., fairly high in the southeast sky.

The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to

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