Friday, June 26, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 6/27/15

Saturday: Venus and Jupiter are moving towards each other in the early evening sky this week. They are one and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the west horizon at 9:30 p.m. with the much brighter Venus being on the bottom. By Tuesday night, they’ll be close enough together in the sky to be in the same field of view of slam backyard telescopes.

Sunday: Seventeenth century astronomers documented the appearance of a new star, or “nova”, in 1670. However as modern astronomers studied the records of the star, called Nova Vulpeculae 1670, they realized it didn’t have the characteristics of a typical nova because it didn’t repeatedly brighten and dim. It brightened twice and disappeared for good. Turning their telescopes to the region, they discovered the chemical signature to be characteristic of a very rare collision of two stars. For more information about this discovery, go to Nova Vulpeculae 1670 is right below the binary star system Alberio, the head of Cygnus the swan. Alberio is four fists above the east horizon at 10 p.m.

Monday: Saturn is two and a half fists above the south horizon at 10 p.m.

Tuesday: Happy Asteroid Day (, the day we celebrate avoiding the destruction of the Earth by an undiscovered asteroid. There are a million asteroids in the Solar System with the potential to strike Earth and destroy a city. Astronomers have discovered only 1% of them. Asteroid Day is an effort to educate the public and encourage policy makers to fund this important effort.

Wednesday: July is typically the month when the antlers of a young buck push out of its head so some Native American groups call this month’s full moon the Full Buck Moon. Tonight, the Full Buck Moon is in the constellation Sagittarius the archer.

Thursday: Last week, I wrote about Mizar. This week, I need to warn you not to confuse Mizar with its rhyming brother Izar in the constellation Bootes. Izar is also a binary star with about the same apparent brightness. And both were featured in different episodes of Star Trek. Izar was featured in the Star Trek episode “Whom Gods Destroy” from the original series. It is the base of Fleet Captain Garth, a former big shot in the federation and one of Kirk’s heroes before he went insane. Garth kidnaps Kirk and Spock before eventually being out smarted. Mizar doesn’t play as big a role in its episode. It is the star of the home world of one of the alien species in The Next Generation episode “Allegiance”. Izar is one fist above the bright star Arcturus and seven fists above the south horizon at 10 p.m. Mizar is seven fists above the northwest horizon at this time.

Friday: The Pluto mission called New Horizons ( is less than two weeks from reaching its target. On July 14 at 4:49 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, New Horizons will pass within about 10,000 km of Pluto. That’s the distance from Seattle to Taipei, Taiwan! There will be only one fly-by of Pluto in your lifetime and this is it. Read about it. Watch the short video ( Tell your friends.

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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