Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 3/31/18

Saturday: The first day of spring was March 20. The most recent full moon is today. That means tomorrow is Easter. The standard way to determine the date of Easter for Western Christian churches is that it is the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox, also known as the first day of spring. Of course, the other standard way is to look for the date of church services celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. There is no Bible story of an “Easter star”. If there were, Spica would be a pretty good choice. The name Spica comes from the Latin “spica virginis” which means “Virgo’s ear of grain”. Spica represents life-giving sustenance rising after a long winter just like the risen Jesus represents life-giving redemption to Christians. Spica is a half a fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east-southeast horizon at 9 p.m., just to the lower right of the Moon. To learn how to calculate the exact date of Easter for any year, go to  

Sunday: Mars and Saturn are right next to each other in the morning sky this entire week. This morning, the slightly brighter Mars nearly two fists held upright and at arm's length above the south-southwest horizon. Saturn is about a thumb width above Mars. Right below Mars, and visible with binoculars, is one of the brightest globular clusters in the sky, M22. 

Monday: Jupiter is more than a half a fist below the Moon at 11:30 p.m. By 6:00 a.m., they are in the southwest sky and less than a half a fist apart. See if you can notice the difference in their distance apart from each other. 

Tuesday: The Space Shuttles have been retired. But NASA is still making plans about the future of space flight. Here is a small NASA poster summarizing the future of American Human spaceflight: It is interesting to compare the sizes of these real spaceships to the dozens of fictional spacecraft summarized on a poster found at Next time you are in Seattle, go see the Full Fuselage Space Shuttle Trainer at The Museum of Flight ( 

Wednesday: Venus is one fist above the west horizon at 8:15 p.m. 

Thursday: April, Global Astronomy Month, is a great time to look at space.... art. Numerous experts and space art enthusiasts will be talking about and showing the work of space art pioneer Chesley Bonestell at a Facebook Live event. For more information, including a ling to register for the free event, go to 

Friday: You need to get up early tomorrow to cheer on your favorite runners at the Yakima River Canyon Marathon starting at 8 a.m. on Canyon Road just south of Berry Road. So why not get a little viewing in? To symbolize the long trail of a marathon, follow the long trail of our own Milky Way Galaxy. It seems to rise up from the ground due south. It its highest, it is five fists above due east. It sinks back to the ground due north. The thickest part of the Milky Way is in the southern sky because that is the direction of the center of the galaxy.
The CWU Physics Department and the College of the Sciences is hosting its monthly First Saturday planetarium show tomorrow from noon to 1 pm. Physics major Jessica Kisner will give a presentation about Mars. The huge images on the dome will almost make you feel like you are on Mars! The show is free and open to all ages. There will be a show at noon on the first Saturday of every month hosted by different CWU astronomers and astronomy educators. The planetarium is room 101 in Science Phase II, just off the corner of 11th and Wildcat Way, H-11 on the campus map found at

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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