Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 11/7/15

Saturday: Imagine Opie and Andy Taylor walking down the dirt path at night to that fishing hole in the sky. They’d probably be looking to catch Pisces, the two fish already conveniently tied together with two ropes. The ropes are connected at the star Alrescha, Arabic for “the cord”. Alrescha is four fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 10:30 p.m. The fish are attached to lines of stars that branch out at one o’clock and three o’clock from Alrescha. By the way, “The Fishing Hole”, The Andy Griffith Show’s theme song, was rated the 20th best TV theme song of all time by That’s too low of a rating in my opinion.

Sunday: Did you look up Hypatia and Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi based on last week’s Halloween costume suggestion? Hypatia was a Greek astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher born about 370 CE. Very little was written about her while she was alive. Also, no work definitely thought to be hers, alone, has survived. Later writers and historians believe she wrote “The Astronomical Canon” and designed an improved version of the astrolabe, a tool for studying the night sky. Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi was a Persian astronomer, mathematician, and geographer born around 780 CE. He is best known as the person who invented algebra. He also write an extensive book of astronomical tables which Islamic scientists used to predict the movements of the Sun, Moon, and five known (at the time) planets.

Monday: While Stonehenge is an ancient burial ground visited by religious people for thousands of years, MIThenge is an 825-foot long hallway on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology visited by the Sun’s rays twice a year.  Every year in November and January, the setting Sun lines up with a narrow window at the end of the long hall and the light shines down to the opposite end. This season’s alignment is from November 10-13. For more information, visit or visit MIT. In addition, challenge yourself to find a similar alignment

Tuesday: Say “good bye” to Saturn. At 5 p.m., it is less than a half a fist above the southwest horizon. It will be lost in the glare of the setting Sun by the end of the week.

Wednesday: We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. And a happy Wednesday. Martinmas is a holiday in many parts of the world commemorating Saint Martin of Tours. He was buried on November 11, 397. What does this have to astronomy? Not much except that the celebration on November 11 often doubles as a cross-quarter day celebration, a day that is halfway between an equinox and a solstice. Also, according to an agricultural calendar, November 11 marks the practical beginning of winter.

Thursday: The Northern Taurid meteor shower peaks tonight. These are slow moving meteors that result in the occasional fireball. The Moon is near new so there won’t be much celestial light obscuring your view. Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. These meteors appear to come from a point in Taurus the bull, near the open star cluster called the Pleiades. This point is about three fists above the east horizon at 8 p.m. You can follow this point throughout the night, as it will remain one fist above the V-shaped Hyades Cluster with its bright star Aldebaran (pronounced Al-deb’-a-ran). Meteors are tiny rocks that burn up in the atmosphere when the Earth runs into them. These rocks are broken off parts of Comet 2P/Encke.

Friday: At 6 a.m., Jupiter is four fists above the southeast horizon and Venus is a little less than three fists above the southeast horizon. Mars is about a half a fist to the upper right of Venus.

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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