Wednesday, November 5, 2014
The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/8/14
Saturday: Imagine Opie and Andy Taylor walking down the dirt path at night to that fishing hole in the sky. They’d probably be looking to catch Pisces, the two fish already conveniently tied together with two ropes. The ropes are connected at the star Alrescha, Arabic for “the cord”. Alrescha is four fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 10:30 p.m. The fish are attached to lines of stars that branch out at one o’clock and three o’clock from Alrescha. By the way, “The Fishing Hole”, The Andy Griffith Show’s theme song, was rated the 20th best TV theme song of all time by ign.com. That’s too low of a rating in my opinion.
Sunday: While Stonehenge is an ancient burial ground visited by religious people for thousands of years, MIThenge is an 825-foot long hallway on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology visited by the Sun’s rays twice a year. Every year in November and January, the setting Sun lines up with a narrow window at the end of the long hall and the light shines down to the opposite end. This season’s alignment is from November 10-13. For more information, visit http://goo.gl/0hwFQf or visit MIT.
Monday: We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. And a happy Monday. Martinmas is a holiday in many parts of the world commemorating Saint Martin of Tours. He was buried on November 11, 397. What does this have to astronomy? Not much except that the celebration on November 11 often doubles as a cross-quarter day celebration, a day that is halfway between an equinox and a solstice.
Tuesday: The Northern Taurid meteor shower peaks the next two nights. The best time to observe this shower is mid evening before the moon rises at about 9 p.m. Under the best conditions, you can expect about 10 meteors an hour with some of them being bright fireballs. A few weeks ago, the related Southern Taurid meteor shower produced many fireball sightings in the southwest United States. 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, near the open star cluster called the Pleiades. This point is about three fists above the east horizon at 8 p.m. You can follow this point throughout the night, as it will remain one fist above 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.
Wednesday: Mars is one fist above the southwest horizon at 6 p.m., just above the setting teapot asterism. An asterism is a recognizable pattern of stars in the night sky. The Big Dipper is probably the best-known asterism.
Thursday: Jupiter is one fist above the east-northeast horizon at midnight.
Friday: Lieutenant Worf, the Klingon Starfleet officer on Star Trek: The Next Generation, might say “Today is a good day to die.” But Deneb, the bright supergiant star in Cygnus the Swan would say “two million years from now is a good day to die.” This may seem like a long time. But, compared to most stars, two million years from now is as close as today. For example, the Sun will last about five billion years. Small stars known as red dwarfs may last trillions of years. Prepare your astronomically short good byes to Deneb tonight at 8 o’clock when it is six fists above the west horizon.
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.