Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/14/15

Saturday: Most constellations don’t look like the object their name refers to. That’s because most constellations don’t have such a simple to object to emulate as Triangulum does. Triangulum is shaped like a… wait for it…. Wait for it…. A thin isosceles triangle. Mothallah is the only named star in the constellation. In Latin this star is called Caput Trianguli, the head of the triangle. Triangulum is six fists held upright and at arm’s length above the south horizon at 8 p.m. It is pointing down and to the right with Mothallah being the southernmost star at this time of night. The Triangulum Galaxy can be seen with binoculars about a half a fist to the right of Mothallah.

Sunday: It’s getting too cold to see frogs in the wild. But this is a great time to see frogs in the sky. Ancient Arabs referred to the stars that we now call Fomalhaut and Diphda as ad-difdi al-awwal and ad-difda at-tani. This means the first frog and the second frog, respectively. Both frogs are low in the southern sky at 8 p.m. Fomalhaut is one fist above the horizon and one fist to the east of due south. The slightly dimmer Diphda a little more than two fists above the horizon and one fist to the west of due south.

Monday: If you are a fan of science fiction, you may have heard of Tau Ceti. It’s a real Sun-like star with many fake civilizations. In 2012, astronomers discovered strong evidence of five real planets orbiting Tau Ceti. But before you go looking for Barbarella, read the latest research reports. Astronomers think these planets are made from different materials than Earth and would be regularly bombarded with comets and asteroids, destroying any life and space babes that arise. Tau Ceti is two and a half fists above due south at 10 p.m., one and a half fists to the left of Diphda.

Tuesday: The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow morning. These meteors appear to come from a point in the constellation Leo the lion. This point is about one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night and into the morning, as it will remain about one fist above the bright star Regulus. The first quarter moon will be doing its part to stay out of the way meaning even the dimmer meteors will be visible. The Leonid meteors are particles from the tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a comet discovered by Ernst Tempel and Horace Parnell Tuttle in 1866. These are exceptionally fast moving meteors – over 150,000 miles per hour! Go to to read everything you need to know about the Leonid meteor shower. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment.

Wednesday: When you think of space, the first image that comes to mind is a few large, massive bodies surrounded by a lot of empty space. After all, it is called “outer space”, not “outer stuff”. But that so-called empty space is filled with powerful radiation and high-speed sub-microscopic particles. Much of this is dangerous to life. However, many planets, including Earth, have a shield against radiation and particles called a magnetic field. Jupiter’s magnetic field is the strongest of all the planets. Find Jupiter four and a half fists above the southeast horizon at 6:30 a.m. At this same time, Venus is three fists above due southeast and Mars is a fist to the upper right of Venus.

Thursday: The brightest star in the nighttime sky is making its way into the evening sky. Sirius is a little more than a half a fist above the southeast horizon at 11 p.m.

Friday: The Nature of Night event takes place tomorrow 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.

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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