Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 2/2/19

Saturday:  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 professor Cassie Fallscheer will give a presentation about star formation and evolution. The show is free and open to all ages. There will be a show at noon on the first Saturday of every month of 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

Sunday: Are you going to watch the super bowl tonight? Is the bowl really that super? After all, half the night the bowl is tipped upside down, spilling out all of its contents. But don’t just focus on the functionality of the bowl. Think about how it inspires people all across the world to look at the night sky. In Mongolia, participants in the super bowl are known as gods. An Arabian story says the super bowl is a coffin. I encourage you go outside tonight at about 8 p.m., after whatever unimportant thing you have been doing since 3:30 p.m. Look low in the north-northwest sky and watch the super bowl, also known as the Big Dipper, balancing on the end of its handle, proudly displaying its large bowl.

Monday:  Are you interested in participating in astronomy research? You don’t need to go back to school. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars getting a fake degree from an online university. The scientists working on the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter would like your input on which objects they should target for close-up pictures. While you may think the scientists are just trying to build interest in their project by having people look at pretty pictures, there is a real scientific benefit to having many eyes searching for interesting targets. There aren’t enough scientists to carefully inspect all of the low power images. And surprisingly, computers are not nearly as effective as people in making nuanced judgments of images. So, go to and click on the HiWish button. You’ll be on your way to suggesting close-up targets for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. If that is too much work for you, just go outside. Mars is four fists above the southwest horizon at 7 p.m.

Tuesday: The bright star Regulus, in the constellation Leo the Lion, is about one and a half fists above the east horizon at 8 p.m.

Wednesday: The good news is the days are getting longer and the nights are getting shorter. The better news for most readers of this column is the farther north you go in the United States, the longer the days get. Here in Ellensburg, there is almost one and a half more hours of daylight than on the first day of winter. In the southern part of the US, there is only 35 more minutes of sunlight. If you’d like to have your own fun with day lengths and other time questions, go to

Thursday: Be on the lookout for three bright stars in the predawn sky. The brightest is Venus, a little more than a fist above the southeast horizon. Jupiter is nearly two fists to the upper right of Venus and Saturn, the dimmest of the three, is a fist and a half to the lower left of Venus.

Friday: Winter is a good time to see the thick band of the Milky Way galaxy. It arches high in the high in the early evening starting in the southeast by Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Climbing from Sirius through the "horns" of Taurus to the bright star Capella nearly straight overhead, it drops down toward M-shaped Cassiopeia in the north and the tail of Cygnus, the swan, in the northwest.

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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