Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 9/15/18

Saturday: “You know Aries and Cancer and Draco and Libra. Leo and Pisces and Virgo and Hydra. But, do you recall, the pointiest asterism of all? Triangulum, the three sided asterism, had a very pointy edge….” Sorry. Some stores have started sending out their Christmas catalogues and that has put me in the mood to modify some Christmas songs. Anyway, Triangulum is a small constellation between the more prominent Andromeda and Aries. Its main feature is a skinny triangle oriented parallel to and nearly four fists held upright and at arm’s length above the east horizon at 11 p.m.

Sunday: Fomalhaut, the southernmost bright star visible from the northern USA, is one fist above the south-southeast horizon at 11 p.m. In 2008, Fomalhaut and its surroundings became the first star system with an extrasolar planet to be directly imaged

Monday: At 8 p.m., Jupiter is one fist above the southwest horizon. Saturn is two fists above the south horizon and less than one fist to the left of the Moon.

Tuesday: The planet Neptune is on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun is, meaning it is at its brightest and easiest to see. Of course, “bright and easy” is relative because you’ll still need binoculars to see it. First find Fomalhaut, the bright star a little less than one fist above the south-southeast horizon. Then move your binoculars up and to the left about three binocular fields of view to the fairly bright star called Skat. Next continue to move up and to the left about one and a half binocular fields of view to the reddish star called Hydor, which is a little dimmer than Skat. With Hydor in the upper right of your field of view, Neptune will be near the center. The radio program “Stardate” has three 1-minutes episodes about Neptune earlier this month. Listen to them here:

Wednesday: To celebrate the start of school at Central Washington University tomorrow, you could take a quick trip to Mars. How about America’s desert Southwest? Not enough time? Then just look at some photos from… from…. Hmmm. The photos at look like they could be from either place. The Murray Buttes region of Mars, where the Curiosity rover has been exploring, look a lot like the landscape of Utah. So much so that the Mars-based movie John Carter was filmed there. Look for John Carter at your local video store. (“What’s that?” asked the child.) Look for Mars two fists above due south at 9:30 p.m., just a little bit below the Moon. If you wait until tomorrow night, the Moon will have moved eastward so you will be able to see Mars better.

Thursday: According to “One world, group hug, love everyone” philosophy, political borders are human-made and can’t be seen from space so why can’t we all just get along. According to real world, pragmatic discoveries, some human-made political borders CAN be seen from space. Since 2003, India has illuminated its border with Pakistan to prevent illegal crossings. In 2011, astronaut Ron Garan took a picture of that border from the International Space Station. For more information, including the photo, go to

Friday: Earlier this week, you read about Fomalhaut, the second brightest star with a planet. The brightest star with a planet is Pollux, in the constellation Gemini. (First and second brightest is misleading here because they are nearly identical in magnitude, 1.15 vs. 1.16.) Pollux is four and a half fists above due east at 5:30 a.m., right below its “twin” star Castor.  Read more about Pollux 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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