Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 11/3/18

Saturday:  You’ll be getting an extra hour this weekend. What are you going to do with it? I suggest you learn some astronomy. The CWU Physics Department and the College of the Sciences is hosting its monthly First Saturday planetarium show today from noon to 1 p.m. CWU physics major Jessica Kisner will give a presentation about Solar System moons. The show is free and open to all ages. There will be a show at noon on the first Saturday of every month during the school year hosted by different CWU astronomers and astronomy educators. The CWU Lydig 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.
Before you fall back on to your bed tonight, set your clock back one hour to the real time. Daylight savings ends early Sunday morning at 2 a.m. This means one more hour of sky watching at in the evening because the Sun will set one hour earlier. Ben Franklin proposed the idea of “saving daylight” by adjusting our clocks way back in 1784. Daylight savings time was first utilized during World War I as a way to save electricity. After the war, it was abandoned. It was reintroduced during World War II on a year-round basis. From 1945 to 1966, some areas implemented daylight savings and some did not. Also, it was not implemented with any uniformity as to when it should start and stop. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 codified the daylight savings rules.

Sunday: “It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood.” Constellations can be considered neighborhoods in the nighttime sky. But, the stars in those constellations are not necessarily neighbors in real life. For example, the bright stars in the constellation Cassiopeia range from 19 light years to over 10,000 light years away from Earth. One constellation that consists of real neighbors is Ursa Major. Or, more specifically, the Big Dipper. Five stars in the Big Dipper are all moving in the same direction in space, are about the same age and are all about 80 light years from Earth. “Please won’t you be my neighbor?” Skat, the third brightest star in the constellation Aquarius is a neighbor to these five Big Dipper stars, all of which are about 30 light years from each other. They are thought to have originated in the same nebula about 500 million years ago. Just like human children do, these child stars are slowly moving away from home. Skat is about three fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 8 p.m. The much brighter Fomalhaut is a fist and a half below Skat. And, it’s not fun being below Skat.

Monday: Mercury and Jupiter are just above the southwestern horizon at 5 p.m. Jupiter is the brighter and the farther south of the two.

Tuesday: The moon is almost directly between the Earth and Sun today. That means you won’t be able to see it. But that does not mean it doesn’t exist. Contrary to the belief of toddlers and immature politicians, just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. (Note a double negative statement followed by a triple negative statement. I’m not unsorry about that.) Now, back to the science. What would happen to the earth if the moon really didn’t exist? In that 2013 blockbuster Oblivion, aliens destroy the moon and Tom Cruise survives. But the long-term effects on the earth would be devastating to life, as we know it. The moon stabilizes the spin axis of the earth keeping the seasons fairly uniform over time. For more information on what would happen to the earth if the moon were destroyed, go to http://goo.gl/4EbzLa. For more information on Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Cruise.

Wednesday: Did you look up Vera Rubin and Abu Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad Al-Biruni based on last week’s Halloween costume suggestion? Vera Rubin was an American astronomer who discovered that the orbital speed of material near the edge of galaxies was just as fast as material closer to the center. The best explanation for this was that there is invisible mass, or dark matter, spread throughout galaxies.  If you want to learn about her in her own words, listen to https://www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/33963. Abu Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad Al-Biruni was one of the greatest scholars in the Medieval Islamic era. He did research on celestial motions and drew plans of an early clock and astrolabe, two important early astronomical tools..

Thursday: Deneb Kaitos, Arabic for whale’s tail, is two and a half fists above due south at 9:30 p.m. This is the brightest star in the constellation Cetus the sea monster.

Friday: While Stonehenge is an ancient burial ground visited by religious people for thousands of years, MIThenge is an 825-foot long hallway on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology visited by the Sun’s rays twice a year.  Every year in November and January, the setting Sun lines up with a narrow window at the end of the long hall and the light shines down to the opposite end. This season’s alignment is from November 10-12. For more information, visit http://goo.gl/0hwFQf or visit MIT. In addition, challenge yourself to find a similar alignment in your neighborhood. If you are not up for a challenge, just go outside tonight at 6:30 p.m. Saturn is a little less than one fist above due southwest and Mars is nearly three fists above the southern horizon.


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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