Friday, April 13, 2018

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 4/14/18

Saturday: Poor Jupiter. Objects from space just keep bombarding it. On March 17 2016, two amateur astronomers, unbeknownst to each other, had their cameras aimed at Jupiter when a brief flash of light appeared on the limb. This is the fifth time such an impact has been observed in the past ten years. For more information, go to  Tonight, nothing large is likely to hit Jupiter. But you can see for yourself at 11:30 a.m. when Jupiter is one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon.

Sunday: The Stargate movies and TV shows have access to a portal to other planets. Harry Potter has access to a portal to the Chamber of Secrets. You have access to a Portal to the Universe. This portal is not in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom but on the web at It is a repository of up-to-date astronomy news, blogs, and podcasts.
One recent feature highlights all of the surface feature names on Pluto’s large moon Charon that were recently approved by the International Astronomical Union. Some of my favorites are Dorothy Crater, named for the main character in The Wizard of Oz, Kubrick Mons, named for the famed film director, and Clarke Montes, named for the science fiction author. (Note the 2001: A Space Odyssey theme.) For more names, go to

Monday: The Lyrid meteor shower peaks next week. But there will be increased meteor activity for the next two weeks in the vicinity of the constellation Lyre. The meteors appear to come from a point to the right of the bright bluish star Vega in the constellation Lyra the lyre. This point is about three fists above the east-northeast horizon at midnight and close to straight overhead near dawn.

Tuesday: Venus is about a half fist to the right of the young waxing crescent Moon at 8:30 p.m. Look for them low in the western sky.

Wednesday: Are you thirsty when you get up in the morning? If so, that’s okay because the Big Dipper is positioned to hold water in the morning sky. Look three fists above the northwest horizon at 5 a.m. You’ll see three stars that make a bent handle and four stars that make a cup.

Thursday: Mars and Saturn are neighbors in the southern morning sky. At 5:30 a.m., Saturn is two fists above the southern horizon, just a few degrees east of due south. Mars is a little bit brighter and a little bit lower in the sky, one fist to the lower left of Saturn.

Friday: Remember the old saying: April showers bring… meteors. The Lyrid meteor shower peaks tomorrow night through Sunday morning. But tonight and tomorrow morning should also bring an increase in meteors. The meteors will appear to come from a point to the right of the bright bluish star Vega in the constellation Lyra the lyre. This point is about three fists above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight and close to straight overhead near dawn. The best time to look is just before dawn since that is when the radiant, or point from which the meteors appear to come, is high in the sky. This year, the Moon is in the first quarter phase so it will not be providing much light to obscure the meteors during the prime viewing time after midnight. Typically, this is one of the least interesting major meteor showers of the year. However, it is also one of the most unpredictable. As recently as 1982, there were 90 meteors visible during a single hour. In addition, the Lyrid meteor shower has historical interest because it was one of the first ones observed. Chinese records say “stars fell like rain” in the shower of 687 B.C. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. Meteors are tiny rocks that hit the Earth and burn up in the atmosphere. 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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