Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 11/11/17

Saturday: This morning, you have a great opportunity to see a star, other than the Sun, during the daytime. And, not only will you see the star, you will see it be occulted by the Sun. Disappears at 8:40 am, reappears from the unlit side of the Moon at 9:20 a.m.
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.

Sunday: Saturn is less that a fist held upright and at arm’s length above the southwest horizon at 5:30 p.m. Say good-bye because in less than two weeks, Saturn will be obscured by the light of the Sun, beginning a two and a half month period in which there will be no naked eye planets visible in the evening sky.

Monday: Jupiter and Venus are less than the width of the full moon apart from each other in the early morning sky. They are a half a fist above the east-southeast horizon at 6:30 a.m.
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.

Tuesday: 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 ranking in my opinion.

Wednesday: The Big Dipper is a circumpolar asterism for the northern part of the United States, meaning it is a group of stars that never goes below the horizon. Alkaid, the outermost star in the Big Dipper handle, gets the closest to the due north horizon at 10:10 p.m., making it to within about a half a fist from the horizon.

Thursday: 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.

Friday: The Leonid meteor shower peaks early this morning 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. The Moon will be below the horizon nearly the whole night so you should see a pretty good show. 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.
The Nature of Night event takes place tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Science Phase I and Science Phase II on the CWU campus (at J-9 and H-10 on the campus map found at There will be planetarium shows, fun nighttime projects, telescopes, animals, cookies and much more.

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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