Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 5/26/18

Saturday:  Today: In 1979, the group Foreigner recorded the song “Head Games”. They could have been singing about the constellations Hercules and Ophiuchus when they said “head games, it’s just you and me baby, head games, I can’t take it anymore” because the heads of these two constellations have been right next to each other in the nighttime sky for all of human history. And just to make it easy for you, a star that bears an Arabic name that means “the head” represents each head. In Hercules, it's Ras Algethi (head of the kneeler); in Ophiuchus, Ras Alhague (head of the serpent charmer). At 11 p.m., Ras Alhague, the brighter of the two, is three and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the east-southeast horizon. Ras Algethi is about a half a fist to the upper right of Ras Alhague. 

Sunday: At 11 p.m., the bright star Regulus is less than a fist from the upper left of the Moon. But what if it is cloudy or you are study inside all day and night? Easy, check out the Moon online. One of the best live Moon maps is found at http://goo.gl/wRXQqa. See the most up to date lunar images at fantastic resolution, down to about two meters. You could easily tell the difference between a car and a minivan on the moon. 

Monday: The questions who, what, where, and when can only be asked with a “W”. At 10:30 p.m., the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia is about one and a half fists above due north. The middle star in the W was used as a navigation reference point during the early space missions. The American astronaut Gus Grissom nicknamed the star Navi, his middle name Ivan spelled backwards. After he died in the Apollo 1 fire, the star name was kept as a memorial. 

Tuesday: Altair, the lowest star in the Summer Triangle, is one fist above due east at 11 p.m. 

Wednesday: NASA recently launched InSight, a mission to study Martian seismology. When it lands on Mars in late November, it will monitor the seismic waves that occur when rocks and land masses shift. By measuring the size and frequency of these marsquakes, astronomers will learn more about the structure, history, and formation of Mars. For more about marsquakes, including a short video, go to https://goo.gl/ybFETD. You can see Mars for yourself, one and a half fists above due south at 5 a.m. 

Thursday: The month of June is named after Juno, the queen of the Roman gods and the mythological protector of the Roman state. In ancient Rome, the month began when the crescent moon was first seen in the evening sky from Capitoline Hill in Rome. If we still started months this way, June would start on a different day each year. Celebrate the first sunset in June by actually watching it… and then looking for the visible planets. At 9:30 p.m., one and a half fists above the west horizon and Jupiter is nearly two and a half fists above the south-southeast horizon. If you wait until 11:30 p.m., you can see Saturn and the Moon rising up from the southeast horizon. 

Friday: The CWU Physics Department and the College of the Sciences is hosting its monthly First Saturday planetarium show tomorrow from noon to 1 pm. Local science educator Megan Rivard will give a presentation about what can be seen in the summer sky called "Summer Night Lights – A Tour". Shows are 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 https://www.cwu.edu/facility/campus-map. 

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 https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm 

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