Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 11/28/15

Saturday: “Hey baby! What’s your sign?”
“Ophiuchus, of course”
The Sun is in the same part of the sky as the stars of Ophiuchus from about November 29 to December 17. This is what astrologers mean when they say the Sun is “in” a constellation. Thus, if you were born between these dates, you should be an Ophiuchus. The fact that the horoscopes never list Ophiuchus is a major flaw of astrology. Astrology says that some of our characteristics are based on the location of the Sun at our birth. How can astrologers leave out three weeks from their system? That is like a scientist saying she can explain the results of her experiment every month of the year except early December. Ophiuchus was a mythical healer who was a forerunner to Hippocrates. According to myth, he could raise people from the dead. Maybe that is why he is ignored by astrology. Raising people from the dead is much less impressive than giving spot-on advice such as “Today is a good day to watch your finances.”
The bright stars of Ophiuchus rise just before the Sun. Rasalhague (pronounced Ras’-al-hay’-gwee), the brightest star, is about a half a fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east-northeast horizon at 6:30 a.m.

Sunday: There is a line-up of planets in the morning sky. Venus is two and a half fists above the southeast horizon. The bright star Spica is a half a fist to the lower right of Venus. Mars is a fist and a half to the upper right of Venus. Jupiter is three fists to the upper right of Venus.

Monday: Have you been shopping all weekend? Do you need an evening sky break? You deserve a big reward so make it a double. A Double Cluster, that is. The Double Cluster, also known as h and Chi Persei, consists of two young open star clusters in the constellation Perseus. Of course, young is a relative term as these clusters are about 13 million years old. Each cluster is spread out over an area about the same size as the full moon. To the naked eye, the Double Cluster shines with a steady, fuzzy glow. Binoculars resolve dozens of individual stars in the clusters. The Double Cluster is six fists above the northeast horizon at 6 p.m., about a fist below the sideways “W” of Cassiopeia and three fists above the bright star Capella.

Tuesday: Have you even seen a Black Hole? Neither have scientists. But they have seen the effects of a Black Hole. Black holes have a strong gravitational influence on anything that passes close to them, including light. Cygnus X-1, the first Black Hole candidate ever discovered, is six fists above the west horizon at 7 p.m., in the middle of the neck of Cygnus the swan. NASA launched the Chandra X-ray observatory in 1999 to study black hole candidates and other high-energy events.

Wednesday: I am guessing that some of you don’t like the line of reasoning from Tuesday: that seeing the effects of a Black Hole is good enough to claim there are Black Holes. You have never seen the wind. But, you have seen the effects of the wind. And no Ellensburg resident doubts the existence of the wind.

Thursday: Comet Catalina should now be visible with binoculars in the southeastern sky just before sunrise. First find Venus, the brightest point of light in the sky two and a half fists above the southeast horizon. Move Venus to the upper right hand portion of your binocular field of view. Then move your binoculars to the lower left to the brightest star in that portion of the sky, called Kappa Virginis. This star will be a lot dimmer than Venus. Comet Catalina will be to the left of this star. For more information and a finder chart for Comet Catalina, go to

Friday: Is your favorite astronomy-loving relative of yours asking for a telescope this Christmas? Before reaching for your credit card, read this guide to choosing your first telescope, available at If cost is an issue, look no further than this Sky and Telescope article about low cost telescopes The authors review and recommend three telescopes that now cost less than $130 each. If you want to give a gag astronomy gift to someone who really bugs you, give them a copy this column. After such a dud “gift”, you’ll never hear from them again. And that may be the best gift of all.

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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