Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 8/22/15

Saturday: Saturn is about a half a fist held out at arm’s length to the lower right of the first quarter moon at 9 p.m., low in the southwestern sky.

Sunday: In most parts of the country, a mixture of tasty carbon-based material and healthy minerals is called a casserole. In Minnesota, it is called a hot dish. (Uffdah, you betcha!) In space, it is called a supergiant. Antares, a supergiant in the constellation Scorpius, is forging lighter elements into carbon, oxygen, silicon, and iron in its core. It is the main course, about one fist above the south-southwest horizon at 9 p.m. The moon represents a half a meatball a fist above Antares. Make sure it cools off before you take a bite.

Monday: Had the script been written a little differently for a well-known Robin Williams movie, we might have heard Mr. Williams shout, “Goooood Morning Orion the hunter”. Orion is typically thought of as a winter constellation. But, it makes its first appearance in the summer sky. The lowest corner of Orion’s body, represented by the star Saiph (pronounced “safe”), rises at 3:30 a.m., well before the Sun. By 5 a.m., Orion’s belt is three fists above the southeast horizon.

Tuesday: In 1987, the rock group Def Leppard sang “Pour some sugar on me, in the name of love. Pour some sugar on me, come on fire me up”. In 2012, some European astronomers “found some sugar near stars, they were very young. Found some sugar near stars, out where planets formed.” Astronomers observed molecules of glycolaldehyde, a simple form of sugar, in the disk of gas and dust orbiting young binary stars. This is the first time astronomers have found this simple sugar so close to a star indicating that organic molecules can be found in planet-forming regions of stars. For more information, go to

Wednesday: Do you wish you could travel to Mars? Your name can… on InSight, the NASA probe that will study the interior of Mars. InSight is scheduled to launch in March of 2016. Go to to send your name to Mars on a tiny chip. Check out your destination this morning at 5:30, one fist above the east horizon.

Thursday: You think the Ellensburg wind is bad. Some of the Jovian planets have winds of over 1000 miles per hour. Jupiter and Saturn have belts of rapidly moving clouds that can be observed with back yard telescopes. To learn more about windy worlds, go to Jupiter is line with the Sun and won’t be visible in the morning sky until the second week of September.

Friday: Deneb is about seven fists above the east horizon at 9 p.m. When you look at Deneb, you are seeing light that left Deneb about 1,800 years ago.

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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