Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 10/25/14

Saturday: Dead October flowers lead to November meteor showers. While the Leonid meteor shower is the big name event, the few bright and surprisingly colorful fireballs per hour you can see during the typical Southern and Northern Taurids meteor showers may make it worth your while to stay up late for a while. These two showers overlap from about October 19 to November 19. Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. These meteors appear to come from a point in Taurus the bull. This point is about four fists held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon at 11 p.m. You can follow this point throughout the night, as it will remain one fist to the right of the V-shaped Hyades Cluster with its bright star Aldebaran (pronounced Al-deb’-a-ran). Meteors are tiny rocks that burn up in the atmosphere when the Earth runs into them. These rocks are broken off parts of Comet 2P/Encke.

Sunday: What do Justin Bieber and Betelgeuse have in common? Both are superstars. One will shine brightly for about a few hundred thousand more years. The other will only seem to be around for that long. Baby, baby, baby, ohh, you need to learn more about Betelgeuse, the real super giant star that is big enough to hold about one million Suns. For more information about Betelgeuse, go to You’ll find it one fist above due east at 11 p.m.

Monday: The Stargate movies and TV shows have access to a portal to other planets. Harry Potter has access to a portal to the Chamber of Secrets. You have access to a Portal to the Universe. This portal is not in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom but on the web at It is a repository of up-to-date astronomy news, blogs, and podcasts. A recent story highlights the discovery of a 12 billion year old galaxy surrounded by a ring where new stars are forming. Astronomers want to study this galaxy because of the vast difference in age of stars in the center and those in the ring. You’ll want to study this galaxy because it looks like the Chakram weapon used by Xena, Warrior Princess. Read more about the discovery at

Tuesday: Deneb, one of the three bright stars in the Summer Triangle, is nearly straight overhead at 7 p.m.

Wednesday: Jupiter rises in the east-northeast sky at about 1 a.m. By 7 a.m., it is four fists above the southeast horizon.

Thursday: Late October to-do list. Buy costume. Check. Watch Orion rise in the east-southeast sky just before midnight. Check. Take kids to Boo Central. Double check. Once again, CWU clubs and organizations will turn the SURC Ballroom into a monstrously fun, safe, and educational place to trick or treat. In fact, it will be “science or treat” for the pre-school through fourth graders who visit all of the science club booths. Boo Central runs from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the SURC Ballroom on the CWU campus tomorrow night. Contact Campus Activities at 509-963-1450 for more information.

Friday: Halloween. The pumpkins. The candy. The children going door-to-door dressed up as their favorite astronomers Maria Mitchell and Johannes Fabricius. At least they should because Halloween is, in part, an astronomical holiday. Halloween is a “cross-quarter date”, a day approximately midway between an equinox and a solstice. Historically, the Celts of the British Isles used cross-quarter dates as the beginnings of seasons. For the Celts, winter began with Halloween. So when all those little Mitchells and Fabricii come to your door tonight night, honor the Celts and give them a wintry treat. If they ask you for a trick, point out Mars, one and a half fists above the south-southwest horizon at 6 p.m.

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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