Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 4/11/15

Saturday: You probably didn’t know this but several British New Wave bands were really into astronomy. Take the band “Dead or Alive” (please). The original lyrics to their song “You Spin my Round (Like a Record) were thought to be: “ You spin me right round, baby, right round, like the Whirlpool Galaxy, right round, round, round.” (Well, that’s what I thought them to be.) The Whirlpool Galaxy was the first galaxy observed to have a spiral shape. Since then, astronomers have discovered many galaxies, including our own Milky Way Galaxy, have a spiral shape. Go to for more information about the Whirlpool Galaxy. Go to your small telescope to find the Whirlpool Galaxy in the night sky. It is in the constellation Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs. At 10 p.m., find Alkaid, the end star of the Big Dipper handle, six fists above the north-northeast horizon. The Whirlpool Galaxy is two fingers to the upper right of Alkaid.

Sunday: Venus, the Roman goddess of love, is hanging out with the Seven Sisters tonight. The sisters, also known as the Pleiades, are about a thumb thickness to the right of Venus. They are two fists above the west horizon at 9 p.m.

Monday: Do you want to inspire people to celebrate the beauty of the night sky? To raise awareness of the negative effects of light pollution? Then celebrate International Dark Sky Week by going to and taking action. I suggest clicking on “Outdoor Lighting” and then “Residential Lighting Guide” to see examples of more effective outdoor lighting. The best lighting for observing the night sky is also the best light for safety because effective yard light focus their energy on the ground, where it is needed, and not up into the sky.

Tuesday: Jupiter is six fists above the south horizon at 9 p.m.

Wednesday: The Lyrid meteor shower peaks next week. But there will be increased meteor activity for the next two weeks in the vicinity of the constellation Lyre. The meteors appear to come from a point to the right of the bright bluish star Vega in the constellation Lyra the lyre. This point is about three fists above the east-northeast horizon at midnight and close to straight overhead near dawn.

Thursday: The nighttime stars take little more than an instant to rise. The Moon takers about two minutes to rise. That’s absolutely speedy compared to the constellation Virgo, which takes four hours to rise. The first star in Virgo rises at 4:30 in the afternoon today. Spica, the brightest star in the constellation, rises at 7:30. By 9 p.m., Spica is one fist above the southeast horizon.

Friday: Mercury is about a half a fist above the west-northwest horizon at 8:15 p.m. The much brighter Venus is three fists above due west at this time. In between the two is Mars, about one fist 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

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