Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Ellensburg, WA sky for the week of January 15, 2022

Saturday: Most constellations don’t look like the object their name refers to. That’s because most constellations don’t have such a simple object to emulate as Triangulum does. Triangulum is shaped like a… wait for it…. wait for it…. A thin isosceles triangle. Metallah is the only mononymous star in the constellation. In Latin this star is called Caput Trianguli, the head of the triangle. Triangulum is four and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above due west at 9:30 p.m. The triangle is pointing straight down with Metallah. The Triangulum Galaxy can be seen with binoculars about half a fist to the lower right of Metallah. This is the galaxy that the USS Enterprise travels to after the warp drive engine malfunctions in The Next Generation episode called “Where No One Has Gone Before”.

Sunday: Have you ever looked down on the ground and spotted a penny? In Yakima? While you were standing in Ellensburg? If you have, then you may be able to see the star Hamal as more than just a point of light. It has an angular diameter that can be directly measured from Earth. Hamal, the brightest star in the constellation Aries the ram, has the same angular diameter as a penny 37 miles away. (For comparison, the moon is about half the diameter of a penny held at arm’s length.) Hamal is about four and a half fists above the western horizon at 9:30 p.m. Hamal is just to the left of Triangulum and is the brightest star in that region of the sky.

Monday: Tonight’s full moon is called the Wolf Moon. People used to think that wolves howled due to hunger in the wintertime due to snow and cold diminishing the food supply. The moon is in the constellation Cancer the crab.

Tuesday: Saturn is less than a half a fist above the west-southwest horizon at 5:30 p.m. Jupiter is two fists above due southwest at this time.

Wednesday: At 6:45 a.m., very bright Venus is a half a fist above the east-southeastern horizon. Mars is almost one fist above the eastern horizon, about half way between Venus and the red supergiant star called Antares.

Thursday: You never see a giraffe on the ground in Ellensburg. But you can look for one every night in the sky. The constellation Camelopardalis the giraffe is circumpolar from Ellensburg’s latitude of 47 degrees north meaning it is always above the horizon. Don’t expect to be overwhelmed by the appearance of the stars in Camelopardalis. The brightest star in the constellation appears only about half as bright as the dimmest star in the Big Dipper. However, the actual luminosities of the three brightest stars in Camelopardalis are very high, each at least 3,000 times more luminous than the Sun. Alpha Camelopardalis, a mind boggling 600,000 times more luminous than the Sun, is seven fists above due north at 9:00 p.m.

Friday: This next week is the coldest of the year so it is time to turn up the furnace. Fornax the furnace is one fist above due south at 7:00 p.m.

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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