Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/15/14

Saturday: When you think of space, the first image that comes to mind is a few large, massive bodies surrounded by a lot of empty space. After all, it is called “outer space”, not “outer stuff”. But that so-called empty space is filled with powerful radiation and high-speed sub-microscopic particles. Much of this is dangerous to life. However, many planets, including Earth, have a shield against radiation and particles called a magnetic field. Jupiter’s magnetic field is the strongest of all the planets. Find Jupiter one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east horizon at midnight. For more information about magnetic fields, go to

Sunday: The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow morning. These meteors appear to come from a point in the constellation Leo the lion. This point is about one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night and into the morning, as it will remain about one fist above the bright star Regulus. The waning crescent moon will be doing its part to stay out of the way meaning even the dimmer meteors will be visible. The Leonid meteors are particles from the tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a comet discovered by Ernst Tempel and Horace Parnell Tuttle in 1866. These are exceptionally fast moving meteors – over 150,000 miles per hour! Go to to read everything you need to know about the Leonid meteor shower. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment.

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

Tuesday: Most constellations don’t look like the object their name refers to. Most constellations don’t have such a simple to object to emulate as Triangulum. As you probably guessed, Triangulum is shaped like a princess. Wait…. Just a second…. I read my book wrong. Triangulum is shaped like a thin isosceles triangle. Mothallah is the only named star in the constellation. In Latin this star is called Caput Trianguli, the head of the triangle. Triangulum is seven fists held upright and at arm’s length above the south horizon at 9 p.m. It is pointing down and to the right with Mothallah being the southernmost star at this time of night. The Triangulum Galaxy can be seen with binoculars about a half a fist to the right of Mothallah.

Wednesday: The bright star Spica is about two finger widths below the moon at 6:30 a.m.

Thursday: “Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep. Dreaming about the things that we could be. But baby, I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard, said no more counting dollars. We’ll be counting 9.096 stars, yeah we’ll be counting 9,096 stars.” Luckily, artistic judgment prevailed over scientific precision in the OneRepublic hit “Counting Stars.”. According to the Yale Bright Star Catalog, there are 9,096 stars visible to the naked eye across the entire sky if you are observing from a very dark site. In the northern United States, where a part of the sky is never visible, that number drops to about 6,500. In the middle of a small city at mid-latitudes, like Ellensburg, that number drops to a few hundred. No wonder someone has been losing sleep. Learn more about the star count at

Friday: Friday: The Nature of Night event takes place tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Science Building on the CWU campus. There will be planetarium shows, fun nighttime projects, telescopes, animals, cookies and much more. Go to for more information.

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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