Friday, April 6, 2018

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 4/7/18

Saturday: The CWU Physics Department and the College of the Sciences is hosting its first Saturday planetarium show today 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! There will be a show at noon on the first Saturday of every month hosted by different CWU astronomers and astronomy educators. These shows are free and open to all ages. 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
Prepare for the show by getting up early and seeing Mars, Saturn, and the Moon in the south-southeastern sky. Saturn is about a thumb width below the Moon and Mars is less than a half a fist to the lower left of the Moon. They are two fists above the horizon at 5:30 a.m.

Sunday: Some people in town yesterday for the Yakima River Canyon Marathon may have been looking for a little running inspiration. While nothing can take the place of a 20 mile run for marathon preparation (I know), certain objects in the night sky are inspiring. In the Bible, Job specifically mentions the star Arcturus, or the bear keeper, to his friend as a sign of God's majesty. He describes God as that "Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers (constellations) of the south" (Job 9:9, King James Version). Whatever your religious beliefs, it is clear that Job was impressed with this very bright star. See the star that inspired Job about two and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the east horizon at 10 p.m.

Monday: Are you getting bored with our Solar System? Looking to move but don’t like the available options? Astronomers just discovered a system of three Super-Earths orbiting a star located only 100 light-years away. Of course, we have no way of travelling that far yet. But, you can dream. And your dreams should involve two of the planets being in the size range in which planets could be either rocky like Earth or gas planets like Neptune. Also, no need to dress warm because all three of the planets likely have surface temperatures over 400 degrees Celsius (760 degrees Fahrenheit). Once the James Webb Space Telescope is operational, it will be able to study the atmosphere of these planets. For more information and to start planning your trip, go to

Tuesday: The bright star Sirius is one and a half fists above the southwest horizon at 9 p.m.

Wednesday: You probably didn’t know this but several British New Wave bands were really into astronomy. Take the band “Dead or Alive” (please). The original lyrics to their song “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) were actually: “You spin me right round, baby, right round, like the Whirlpool Galaxy, right round, round, round.” (Well, that’s what I thought they were.) The Whirlpool Galaxy was the first galaxy observed to have a spiral shape. Since then, astronomers have discovered many galaxies, including our own Milky Way Galaxy, have a spiral shape. Go to for more information about the Whirlpool Galaxy. Go to your small telescope to find the Whirlpool Galaxy in the night sky. It is in the constellation Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs. At 10 p.m., find Alkaid, the end star of the Big Dipper handle, six fists above the north-northeast horizon. The Whirlpool Galaxy is two fingers to the upper right of Alkaid.

Thursday: Jupiter is one fist above the southeast horizon at 11:30 p.m.

Friday: If you don’t want to stay up late looking at the stars, do something during the day that will help you and other night sky enthusiasts: make sure your outdoor light fixtures are shielded or at least facing down. This will cut down on light pollution, stray light that obscures the stars, and give you a head start in celebrating International Dark Sky week, which starts Sunday. Go to for more information on how to do an outdoor lighting audit and get more information about International Dark Sky week. You won’t need to have dark skies to see Venus one fist above the west horizon at 8:30 p.m.

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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