Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 4/16/16

Saturday: The nighttime stars take little more than an instant to rise. The Moon takers about two minutes to rise. That’s absolutely speedy compared to the constellation Virgo, which takes four hours to rise. The first star in Virgo rises at 4:30 in the afternoon today. Spica, the brightest star in the constellation, rises at 7:30. By 9 p.m., Spica is one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon.

Sunday: Jupiter is less than a half a fist above the moon at 10 p.m.

Monday: Hit the road Mercury. And don’t you come back no more, no more. For a few weeks, Mercury has been hitting the road and moving away from the Sun in the sky. Today, Mercury is as far away from the Sun as it will get on the evening half of this cycle. This is known as its greatest eastern elongation. Mercury is about a fist above the west-northwest horizon at 6:00 p.m. Over the next few weeks, Mercury will move toward the Sun in the sky. After it passes in front of the Sun, it will appear in the morning sky by early June.

Tuesday: Capella is a half a fist above the north-northeast horizon at 5 a.m.

Wednesday: You’ve seen all of the top 100 lists: top 100 ways to make a birdhouse, top 100 sushi restaurants in Ellensburg, etc. Now get excited for tomorrow night’s full Moon by reading about and finding some of the lunar 100 at This list describes 100 interesting landmarks on the Moon that are visible from Earth. They are listed from easiest to see, starting with the entire moon itself at number 1, to most difficult (Mare Marginis swirls, anyone?). Stay up all night to binge watch the moon or just make a few observations a month. It’s your decision. It’s our moon.

Thursday: Remember the old saying: April showers bring… meteors. The Lyrid meteor shower peaks this morning and tomorrow morning. The meteors appear to come from a point to the right of the bright bluish star Vega in the constellation Lyra the lyre. This point is about three fists above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight and close to straight overhead near dawn. The best time to look is just before dawn since that is when the radiant, or point from which the meteors appear to come, is high in the sky. This year, the Moon is full so the extra light will obscure all but the brightest meteors. Typically, this is one of the least interesting major meteor showers of the year. However, it is also one of the most unpredictable. As recently as 1982, there were 90 meteors visible during a single hour. In addition, the Lyrid meteor shower has historical interest because it was one of the first ones observed. Chinese records say “stars fell like rain” in the shower of 687 B.C. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. Meteors are tiny rocks that hit the Earth and burn up in the atmosphere. For more information, go to

Friday: At midnight tonight, Mars, Saturn, and the star Antares make a small triangle low in the southeastern sky. Antares, the dimmest of the three is less than a half a fist above due southeast. Mars, the brightest of the three is about a half a fist to the upper left of Antares. Saturn is about a fist to the lower left of Mars.

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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