Friday, November 4, 2016

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 11/5/16

Saturday: Before you fall back on to your bed tonight, set your clock back one hour to the real time. Daylight savings ends early Sunday morning at 2 a.m. This means one more hour of sky watching at night because the Sun will set one hour earlier. Ben Franklin proposed the idea of “saving daylight” by adjusting our clocks way back in 1784. Daylight savings time was first utilized during World War I as a way to save electricity. After the war, it was abandoned. It was reintroduced during World War II on a year-round basis. From 1945 to 1966, some areas implemented daylight savings and some did not. Also, it was not implemented with any uniformity as to when it should start and stop. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 codified the daylight savings rules.

Sunday: At 5:15 p.m., Saturn is about one fist above due southwest at 5 p.m. I will be a bit of a struggle to find it in the twilight glow. But Venus, directly to the left of Saturn and a little bit south of due southwest will be easily visible. Mars is two fists above due south.

Monday: Did you look up Elisabeth and Johannes Hevelius based on last week’s Halloween costume suggestion? They were the astronomy version of Bennifer or Brangelina of the mid to late 1600s. Johannes Hevelius spent four years mapping the lunar surface and published his work in Selenographia, sive Lunae descripto (Selenography, a description of the Moon). He also discovered seven constellations still recognized today. When Elisabeth was a child, she started working with Johannes. Shortly after his first wife died, he married the much younger Elisabeth. She started to take over his astronomy work, finishing and publishing their star catalog called Prodromus Astronomiae. Many people consider Elisabeth the first female astronomer.

Tuesday: Jupiter is two fists above the east-southeast horizon at 6 a.m.

Wednesday: Deneb, one of the three bright stars in the Summer Triangle, is nearly straight overhead at 7 p.m.

Thursday: 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 10-12. For more information, visit or visit MIT. In addition, challenge yourself to find a similar alignment

Friday: We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. And a happy Friday. 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.
And what better way to spend Martinmas than by watching a meteor shower. The Northern Taurid meteor shower peaks tonight. These are slow moving meteors that result in the occasional fireball. The Taurid meteor showers produce a few bright meteors every hour so the waxing gibbous Moon won’t be much of a problem. 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.

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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