Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/1/14

Saturday: Don’t forget to “fall back” tonight. Before you fall back on to your bed, set your clock back one hour to the real time. Daylight savings ends early Sunday morning at 2 a.m. This means one more hour of sky watching at night because the Sun will set one hour earlier. Ben Franklin proposed the idea of “saving daylight” by adjusting our clocks way back in 1784. Daylight savings time was first utilized during World War I as a way to save electricity. After the war, it was abandoned. It was reintroduced during World War II on a year-round basis. From 1945 to 1966, some areas implemented daylight savings and some did not. But, it was not implemented with any uniformity as to when it should start and stop. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 codified the daylight savings rules.

Sunday: Happy Celtic New Year! Many historians think that November 1, known for the festival of Samhain, was the ancient Celtic New Year’s Day. Samhain, Old Irish for “summer’s end”, was a harvest festival that may have contributed to some of the customs of our current “holiday” of Halloween.

Monday: Lacerta, the faint lizard constellation, is straight overhead at 7 p.m. It was named by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in 1687 to fill the space between the much brighter and well-defined constellations Pegasus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Cygnus going clockwise from the constellation just south of Lacerta. Chinese know this group of stars as a flying serpent or dragon.

Tuesday: Did you look up Maria Mitchell and Johannes Fabricius based on last week’s Halloween costume suggestion? Maria Mitchell lived in the 1800s and was the first American woman known to work as an astronomer. She used a telescope to discover a comet too dim to be seen with the naked eye, earning a gold medal prize from Danish King Frederick VI. Johannes Fabricius was one of the first astronomers to discover sunspots. He wrote the first publication about sunspots at the young age of 24. Unfortunately, he died five years later.

Wednesday: Mars is one fist above the southwest horizon at 6 p.m.

Thursday: Tonight’s full moon is in the constellation Pisces the fish. Tonight’s other Moon is…. Wait a minute. The Earth has only one Moon. True. And it has always had only one Moon. Not necessarily true. According to the best existing model, about four billion years ago, a Mars-sized object collided with the young Earth. The resulting debris coalesced to form the Moon. However, this model left a mystery: why is the Moon so asymmetric? Hardened-lava lowlands dominate the near side while the far side is dominated by mountainous highlands. According to a recent revision of the prevailing model, the early collision formed a large Moon and a small Moon. Over the years, the small Moon caught up to and collided with the large Moon. The highlands are the material from the collided small Moon. For more information about this theory, go to http://goo.gl/O801zk.

Friday: Jupiter is a half a fist above the east-northeast horizon at midnight. It will be high in the southern sky by 6 a.m. But if you are up at 6 a.m., try to spot the elusive Mercury. It is a half a fist above the east-southeast horizon, just ahead of the rising Sun.

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 http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.

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