Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 11/12/16

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 about a half a fist to the lower right of the Moon 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: The brightest point in the nighttime sky, Venus, is one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the south-southwest horizon at 5 p.m. Saturn is one and a half fists to the right of Venus.

Monday: Now that the somewhat contentious presidential election is over, we can review history for some perspective. Who could ever forget that famous Chicago Daily Tribune headline “Dewey defeats Moonman”? That’s because 1948 was the last time the full Moon will look as large as it does tonight. That makes it a supermoon. No, wait. A SUPERMOON. The Moon’s orbit around the earth is an ellipse. That means, for some parts of the month, the Moon is closer to the Earth than average and sometimes farther away. When the Earth and Moon are close together, the Moon looks larger. And when that closeness, also called perigee, occurs within hours of the full Moon phase, we get a supermoon. It won’t look this large again until 2034. For more information about the latest supermoon, go to

Tuesday: Lieutenant Worf, the Klingon Starfleet officer on Star Trek: The Next Generation, might say “Today is a good day to die.” But Deneb, the bright supergiant star in Cygnus the Swan would say “two million years from now is a good day to die.” This may seem like a long time. But, compared to most stars, two million years from now is as close as today. For example, the Sun will last about five billion years. Small stars known as red dwarfs may last trillions of years. Prepare your astronomically short good byes to Deneb tonight at 7 o’clock when it is seven fists above the west horizon.

Wednesday: The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow morning. These meteors appear to come from a point in the constellation Leo the lion. This point is about one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night and into the morning, as it will remain about one fist above the bright star Regulus. Light from the nearly full moon will obscure some of the dimmer meteors. The Leonid meteors are particles from the tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a comet discovered by Ernst Tempel and Horace Parnell Tuttle in 1866. These are exceptionally fast moving meteors – over 150,000 miles per hour! Go to to read everything you need to know about the Leonid meteor shower. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment.

Thursday: When you think of space, the first image that comes to mind is a few large, massive bodies surrounded by a lot of empty space. After all, it is called “outer space”, not “outer stuff”. But that so-called empty space is filled with powerful radiation and high-speed sub-microscopic particles. Much of this is dangerous to life. However, many planets, including Earth, have a shield against radiation and particles called a magnetic field. Jupiter’s magnetic field is the strongest of all the planets. Find Jupiter two and a half fists above the southeast horizon at 6:30 a.m.

Friday: The Nature of Night event takes place tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Science Building on the CWU campus. There will be planetarium shows, fun nighttime projects, telescopes, animals, cookies and much more. See for more information.

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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