Friday, November 8, 2019

The Ellensburg, WA sky for the week of November 9, 2019

Saturday: 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 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 5:30 p.m. Jupiter is easily visible nearly one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the southwestern horizon and Saturn nearly two fists above the south-southwestern horizon.

Sunday: The Northern Taurid meteor shower peaks tomorrow night, November 11/12. These are slow moving meteors that result in the occasional fireball. The Taurid meteor showers produce a few bright meteors every hour. The nearly full Moon will obscure many meteors. 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 

Monday: This morning, Mercury will pass directly between the Earth and the Sun, looking like a little black spot as it transits the Sun. Mercury will be close to mid-transit at west coast sunrise. The transit will be over at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. Do not look directly at the Sun unless you have a safe solar telescope. Not so coincidentally, the CWU physics department will set up safe solar telescopes to view the transit from 8:30-10:00 a.m.. These will be between Discovery Hall the the SURC, E-11 on the map found at If you can’t get to CWU, you can watch The Virtual Telescope Project’s live web viewing of the transit. Go to for more information. The next Mercury Transit won’t be until 2032. The next one visible in the USA won’t occur until 2049!

Tuesday: Did you open your Martinmas gifts yesterday? 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.

Wednesday: Deneb Kaitos, Arabic for whale’s tail, is two and a half fists above due south at 9:15 p.m. This is the brightest star in the constellation Cetus the sea monster. Or, if you are less prone to hyperbole, Cetus the whale.

Thursday: Mars is one fist above the east-southeastern horizon at 6:00 a.m.

Friday: Venus is almost a half a fist above the southwestern horizon at 5:00 p.m. Jupiter is about one fist to the upper left of Venus and Saturn is another two fists away.

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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