Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/22/14

Saturday: The Nature of Night event takes place 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. Do you want to learn more about what goes on at night in the natural world? You can at this event. The event is free. You could go to http://www.cwu.edu/cesme/node/2561 for more information. But why go to a computer. Instead, go directly to the Science Building, I-8 on the map found at http://www.cwu.edu/facility/campus-map. The Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education gets help from various community organizations to put on this event.

Sunday: Are you disappointed because you are not going anywhere for Thanksgiving? Why not take a (virtual) trip to outer space using Google’s new visualization tool called 100,000 Stars. It shows the stars in our neighborhood in a very good simulation of 3-D. The Sun is initially at the center. If you zoom in, you can click on neighboring stars and learn more about them. For more information and a link to the tool, go to http://goo.gl/hg6Oc.

Monday: Hopefully you’ve been hearing about and reading about the European Space Agency’s (ESA) comet mission Rosetta and its lander, Philae. The best source for information is the ESA’s own website http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta.

Tuesday: Mars is less than a fist to the lower left of the young crescent moon.

Wednesday: Are you thankful that you live in a solar system with multiple planets? You should be. A giant planet like Jupiter cleans up planetary debris that could have collided with Earth and hindered the formation of complex life. Any inhabitants of the planets orbiting Upsilon Andromedae are thankful for this, as well. Upsilon Andromedae, a star in the constellation Andromeda, was the first Sun-like star discovered to have multiple planets orbiting it. So far, all of its planets are giant planets like Jupiter. But, the system is likely to also contain smaller planets. The dim star, but certainly not its planets, is barely visible straight overhead at 9 p.m. Jupiter is much easier to see, about one fist above the east-northeast horizon at 11 p.m.

Thursday: Some of us have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. But, probably not as much as Andromeda had to be thankful for. According to Greek mythology, the beautiful princess Andromeda was chained to a rock next to the ocean. Cetus the sea monster was about to devour her in order to punish her family. Her mother Queen Cassiopeia and her father King Cepheus didn’t know what to do. It seemed that all was lost. But, along came Andromeda’s boyfriend, the great warrior Perseus. Even though Perseus’ standing as the son of King Zeus and the slayer of Medusa was probably enough to win Andromeda under normal circumstances, Andromeda’s impending death-by-sea-monster was not a normal circumstance. So, Perseus drove his sword into the sea monster’s neck and killed it. This was the first time in recorded history that a set of parents actually welcomed an uninvited Thanksgiving visit from the boyfriend. Perseus is about five fists above the east-northeast horizon and Andromeda is about seven fists above the east horizon at 7 p.m.

Friday: Do you need a post-Thanksgiving challenge? Get up before 6:45 a.m. and look low in the east-southeast sky. If you are lucky or if you have binoculars, you may spot Saturn about a half a fist above the horizon at 7a.m. If is slowly moving out of the Sun’s glare and into the pre-dawn 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 http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.

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