Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 11/10/18

Saturday:  The Northern Taurid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow night. These are slow moving meteors that result in the occasional fireball. The Taurid meteor showers produce a few bright meteors every hour. The waxing crescent Moon sets earlier in the evening so it won’t be much of a problem. These meteors appear to come from a point in Taurus the bull, near the open star cluster called the Pleiades. This point is about three fists held upright and at arm’s length above the east horizon at 8 p.m. You can follow this point throughout the night, as it will remain one fist above the V-shaped Hyades Cluster with its bright star Aldebaran (pronounced Al-deb’-a-ran). Meteors are tiny rocks that burn up in the atmosphere when the Earth runs into them. These rocks are broken off parts of Comet 2P/Encke. For more information, go to

Sunday: We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. And a happy Friday. Martinmas is a holiday in many parts of the world commemorating Saint Martin of Tours. He was buried on November 11, 397. What does this have to astronomy? Not much except that the celebration on November 11 often doubles as a cross-quarter day celebration, a day that is halfway between an equinox and a solstice. Also, according to an agricultural calendar, November 11 marks the practical beginning of winter.
Saturn is about a half a fist to the lower right of the Moon at 5 p.m. They are one and a half fists above the southwest horizon.

Monday: Jupiter and Mercury are getting lost in the glare of the Sun. At 4:45, right after the Sun sets, look just above the southwest horizon. Mercury is about a half a hist above due southwest and Jupiter (the brighter of the two) is lower and a little west of southwest.

Tuesday: Imagine Opie and Andy Taylor walking down the dirt path at night to that fishing hole in the sky. They’d probably be looking to catch Pisces, the two fish already conveniently tied together with two ropes. The ropes are connected at the star Alrescha, Arabic for “the cord”. Alrescha is about a half a fist to the lower right of the Moon at 10:30 p.m. The fish are attached to lines of stars that branch out at one o’clock and three o’clock from Alrescha. By the way, “The Fishing Hole”, The Andy Griffith Show’s theme song, was rated the 20th best TV theme song of all time by That’s too low of a ranking in my opinion.

Wednesday: Mars is three fists above due south at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday: Lieutenant Worf, the Klingon Starfleet officer on Star Trek: The Next Generation, might say “Today is a good day to die.” But Deneb, the bright supergiant star in Cygnus the Swan would say “two million years from now is a good day to die.” This may seem like a long time. But, compared to many stars, two million years from now is as about close as tomorrow. For example, the Sun will last about five billion years. Small stars known as red dwarfs may last trillions of years. Prepare your astronomically short goodbyes to Deneb tonight at 7 o’clock when it is seven fists above the west horizon.

Friday: The Leonid meteor shower peaks early tomorrow and Sunday mornings. These meteors appear to come from a point in the constellation Leo the lion. This point is about one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night and into the morning, as it will remain about one fist above the bright star Regulus. The Moon will be below the horizon nearly the whole night so you should see a pretty good show. The Leonid meteors are particles from the tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a comet discovered by Ernst Tempel and Horace Parnell Tuttle in 1866. These are exceptionally fast moving meteors – over 150,000 miles per hour! Go to to read everything you need to know about the Leonid meteor shower. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment.
The Nature of Night event takes place tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Science Building at the intersection of Wildcat Way and 11th Avenue, J-9 on the map found at There will be planetarium shows, fun nighttime projects, animals, cookies and much more. Go to for more information.

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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