Friday, July 6, 2018

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

Saturday: The CWU Physics Department and the College of the Sciences is hosting its first Saturday planetarium show today from noon to 1 pm. CWU physics professor Tony Smith will give a show called Space: The Fun and the Fiction. Have Scotty beam you aboard and come to the presentation. 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

Sunday: Venus is within a fingerwidth of the bright star Regulus for the next few days. They are about one and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above due west at 9:30 p.m. Venus is the brighter of the two. Mercury is lower, about a half a fist above the west-northwest horizon at this time.

Monday: Look straight up at midnight. The head of Draco the dragon will be looking straight down on you. The brightest star in the head is called Eltanin. If you chose to wait a VERY long time, Eltanin will be the brightest star in the night sky. Currently 154 light years away, it is moving towards Earth and will be only 28 light years away in about 1.3 million years, claiming the title as brightest star.

Tuesday: Being in a coma is a bad thing. Looking at the Coma Star Cluster is a good thing. The Coma Star Cluster is an open cluster of about 50 stars that takes up more space in the sky than 10 full Moons. It looks like a fuzzy patch with the naked eye. Binoculars reveal dozens of sparkling stars. A telescope actually diminishes from the spectacle because the cluster is so big and the telescope’s field of view is so small. The Coma Star Cluster is in the faint constellation Coma Berenices (ba-ron-ice’-ez) or Queen Berenice’s hair. Queen Berenice of Egypt cut off her beautiful hair as a sacrifice to the gods for the safe return of her husband Ptolemy III from battle. The Coma Star Cluster is about four fists held upright and at arm’s length above the west horizon at 11:00 p.m

Wednesday: It is Wednesday so you want to go to bed early fo focus on the early evening (for summer, anyway) planets. At 10 p.m., Jupiter is two and a half fists above the southwest horizon. It is the brightest point of light in its part of the sky. Saturn is about five fists to the left of Jupiter, about one and a half fists above the southeast horizon. The star Antares is halfway between the two in the night sky.

Thursday: Mizar is a star in the middle of the Big Dipper handle. Don’t confuse Mizar with its rhyming brother Izar in the constellation Bootes. Izar is also a binary star with about the same apparent brightness. And both were featured in different episodes of Star Trek. Izar was featured in the Star Trek episode “Whom Gods Destroy” from the original series. It is the base of Fleet Captain Garth, a former big shot in the federation and one of Kirk’s heroes before he went insane. Garth kidnaps Kirk and Spock before eventually being out smarted. Mizar doesn’t play as big a role in its episode. It is the star of the home world of one of the alien species in The Next Generation episode “Allegiance”. Izar is one fist above the bright star Arcturus and seven fists above the south horizon at 10 p.m. Mizar is seven fists above the northwest horizon at this time.

Friday: It is Friday so you don’t mind staying up late. Mars is one fist above the southeast horizon at midnight.

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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