Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 10/8/16

Saturday: Today: Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a dolphin. A dolphin? The constellation Delphinus the dolphin is nearly six fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 8:30 p.m. The constellation’s two brightest stars are called Sualocin and Rotanev, which is Nicolaus Venator spelled backwards. Venator worked at the Palermo Observatory in Italy in the mid nineteenth century. He slipped these names into Giuseppe Piazzi’s star catalog without him noticing. The Daily Record (shop Ellensburg) would never let anything like that get into their newspaper. Their editing (shop Ellensburg) staff is too good. Nothing (pohs grubsnellE) evades their gaze.

Sunday: The bright planet Venus is less than a half a fist above the southwest horizon at 7 p.m. It is a little west of due southwest. Saturn is one and a half fists above the southwest horizon, just east of due southwest. The star Antares is between Saturn and the horizon.

Monday: While you are resting after looking for Draconid meteors last week, start thinking about the Orionid meteor shower. This shower, which consists of the earth colliding with pieces of the remains of Halley's Comet's tail, peaks on October 21 and 22 but produces meteors from now until early November. These meteors appear to come from a point in Orion, the hunter. This point is about two fists above the southeast horizon at 1 a.m. tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night as it will remain near the prominent reddish star Betelgeuse (pronounced Bet'-el-jews). The Orionid meteors are fast - up to 40 miles per second. For more information about the Orionids, go to

Tuesday: What time is teatime? Certainly not during an autumn evening. The constellation Sagittarius the archer, with its signature teapot shape, is sinking into the south-southwest horizon by 8 p.m. The handle is on top and the spout is touching the horizon ready to pour that last cup of tea. Mars is riding the teapot, about one and a half fists above the south-southwest horizon.

Wednesday: Along with the not-so-subtle drug reference in their name, The Doobie Brothers could have made an astronomy reference in their song lyrics if they would have written: “Old Earth water, keep on rollin’, Mississippi moon won’t you keep on shining on me.” Astronomers now think that some of the water on Earth may be older than the Solar System. The chemical signature of the water indicates it came from a very cold source, just a few degrees above absolute zero. The early Solar System was much warmer than this meaning the water came from a source outside the Solar System. For more information about the old Earth water, go to

Thursday: Join the Central Washington University College of the Sciences from 5:30 to 7:00 pm at the Science II Grand Opening. There will be tours of the facility, including the state-of-the-art planetarium. Skip desert at home because there will be cake. Go to for more information.

Friday: The constellation Orion is four fists above the south-southwest horizon at 6:30 a.m. The Orion is a cloud of gas and dust visible with binoculars about a half a fist below the “belt” of three stars. Are you are feeling especially attracted to the nebula? If so, that might be because astronomers found evidence of a black hole in the middle. They have not directly observed the back hole, which would be the closest known one to Earth at a distance of 1,300 light years. But the motion of stars in the region is consistent with them being near a black hole 100 times the mass of the Sun. For more information, go to

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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