Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 5/7/16

Saturday: Are you thirsty. I’ll wait while you get some water. I will NOT wait while Corvus the crow gets you some water. The Greco-Roman god Apollo made this mistake. He sent Corvus the crow to get some water in the cup known as Crater. Some figs distracted Corvus and he waited for them to ripen so he could eat them. When Corvus got back late, Apollo put Corvus and Crater in the sky with the gently tipping cup just out of the reach of the perpetually thirsty crow. Corvus is a trapezoid-shaped constellation about two fists above due south at 10 p.m. Crater is just to the right of Corvus.

Sunday: So you think your mother has problems on Mother’s Day because she had you as you as a child? Her mother issues can’t be as bad as Cassiopeia’s issues. First, she was chained to a chair for boasting about her beauty. Second, she has to revolve around the North Star night after night. Third, her daughter Andromeda was nearly killed by a sea monster. Look for poor Cassiopeia about one and a half fists above the north horizon at 10 p.m. Cassiopeia looks like a stretched out “W”.

Monday: To paraphrase a song by The Police: “There’s a little black spot on the Sun today. It’s a different thing than yesterday.” Mercury, the innermost planet, passes directly between the Earth and Sun today. This passing, called a transit, shows up as a small, black dot on the Sun. The transit starts at before sunrise on the west coast of the United States and ends at 11:40 a.m. As with any solar observation, practice safe Sun watching by using a good solar filter or projecting the telescope or binocular image on to a piece of paper. For more information about the transit, go to NEVER look directly at the Sun! If you miss this Mercury transit, the next one is November 11, 2019.

Tuesday: Jupiter is five fists above the south horizon at 9 p.m.

Wednesday: At 11 p.m., Mars, Saturn, and the bright star Antares make a small right triangle. Mars, the brightest of the three, is one fist above the southeast horizon. Antares is a little over a half a fist below Mars and Saturn is about a fist to the lower left of Mars.

Thursday: This is a good time of the year to find the Big Dipper. It is nearly straight overhead at 10 p.m. The cup is to the west and the handle is to the east. You can always use the Big Dipper to find some other bright stars. First, follow the curve, or arc, of the Big Dipper down three fists into the southern sky. This is the bright star, Arcturus, the second brightest nighttime star we can see in Ellensburg. Next, continue on a straight line, or spike, another three fists down toward the south horizon to the star Spica. Spica is the tenth brightest nighttime star we can see in Ellensburg. It is known as the Horn Mansion, one of 28 mansions, or constellations, in the Chinese sky. You now know how to use the Big Dipper handle to “arc” to Arcturus and “spike” to Spica.

Friday: Today’s moon is in the first quarter phase. But what if it is cloudy of you are study inside all day and night? Easy, check out the Moon online. One of the best live Moon maps is found at See the most up to date lunar images at fantastic resolution, down to about two meters. You could easily tell the difference between a car and a minivan on the moon.

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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