Glenwood is located at the foot of Mt Adams,  in the scenic                     
Glenwood Valley/Camas Prairie  of Klickitat County. 
Note.....Mt. Adams  is NOT in Klickitat County.

PHOTO BY DARLISA [email protected] Starlisa.net


Thanks Jim for your contribution.

What’s in the Sky
April 2018

Welcome to April! Our first full month of spring brings longer days and warmer nights, and usually a bit more clear weather than the winter months. Venus dazzles in the west after sunset, and spring constellations charge into the sky from the east. We’ll also have the Lyrid meteor shower, and a conjunction of Saturn and Mars in the morning sky.

Venus will easily be the brightest “star” in the evening sky, low in the west after sunset. It will get slightly brighter during April, as it gets closer to Earth. Through a telescope, you can see that it has phases, like our Moon. Currently, Venus is in a gibbous phase, about “3/4 full”.

Venus is bright enough to be seen with the naked eye on a clear day. It is difficult to find, a tiny white dot in the blue sky. A good time to try (provided it is clear) will be April 17. On that day, the thin crescent Moon will be near Venus in the southwestern sky. If you can find the Moon, look at about the 2 o’clock position from the Moon to find Venus. The planet will be about 5 degrees in arc away from the Moon. That is about the width of three fingers held at arm’s length.

Many of you are familiar with Klickitat County’s iconic State Park, the Goldendale Observatory. Big changes are occurring at the Observatory this year. The park’s main building is being torn down, and a new, larger facility will be built. The main dome, with the large telescope, will remain intact and will be integrated into the new facility. Unfortunately, that means the facility will be unavailable to visit this year. But there is good news – the Observatory staff are moving to the Stonehenge Memorial near Maryhill. There you can enjoy the same excellent programs, and view the stars through portable telescopes at that site. It should be fun to enjoy the stars in a new location, with a different perspective. Plans are to be open at the site Thursdays through Sundays, both for afternoon solar viewing and evening stargazing. You can keep track of the Park’s status on their web page, at http://www.goldendaleobservatory.com/.

Our bright outer planets (Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn) are still in our morning sky in April. On the morning of April 2, Mars and Saturn will be very close to each other, a bit over a degree apart. That’s about 2 ½ times the width of the full Moon, pretty close! Look for them low in the south-southeast. Saturn will be higher in the sky, with Mars below. If you have a telescope or binoculars, you may be able to see a fuzzy star to the right of Mars. That is the Sagittarius cluster, a globular cluster made up of thousands of stars.

Jupiter will also be in the morning sky, but will begin to enter the evening sky at the end of April. You’ll be able to see the solar system’s giant after 10pm, low in the east.

April’s new Moon will be on tax day, the 15th. Full Moon follows on the 29th. On the 3rd, the waning gibbous Moon will be above and to the right of Jupiter in the morning sky. On the morning of the 7th, the Moon will lie right above Saturn, again in the morning sky. On the 17th, the thin crescent new Moon will be next to Venus, in the evening sky.

The Lyrid meteor shower occurs around April 22-23, with the best time being the early morning hours of the 22nd. The Moon will not be bright, so with clear weather it may be a good year to see them.

One of the spring constellations rising in the eastern spring sky is Boötes, the herdsman. Boötes is fairly easy to locate, as it contains a very bright star, Arcturus, the 4th brightest star in our night sky. To locate it, face east and look for the Big Dipper, high overhead. The “handle” of the dipper will be pointing down toward the eastern horizon. Follow the curve of the handle, down and to the right, and find Arcturus, the bright star low in the east. The star will be lower early in the month, and higher in the sky later.

Boötes lies to the left of Arcturus. Two fairly dim stars, Seginus and Delta Boötis, make up the shoulders of the herder. Check out the picture with this article for help.

Enjoy April’s dark skies!

What’s in the Sky
March 2018

March, the year’s third month, brings two full Moons this year, a morning planetary lineup, the return of daylight savings time, and more!

Yes, once again (as in January) we have 2 full Moons in the month of March. Neither though features a lunar eclipse. The second full Moon of the month is called a “blue Moon” as we also had in January. That has nothing to do with the Moon’s color, and I’ve wondered where the term originated. So I did a little research. According to a professor at the University of Newfoundland, Philip Hiscock, the term was used by a Cardinal Wolsey, an advisor to Henry VIII. Per Hiscock, “Cardinal Wolsey writes about his intellectual enemies who ‘would have you believe the Moon is blue”. From there, the blue Moon was eventually linked with the occasional 4th full Moon in a quarter year. In 1946, an article in “Sky and Telescope” magazine erroneously referred to it as the second full moon in a month. That description has stuck. Alas, the Moon’s color is no different than any other full Moon, but it makes for an interesting story.

We are starting to see bright planets return to the evening sky in March. This month will feature Venus and Mercury, visible low in the west after sunset. Look for the two planets right next to each other on the evening of March 3, just above the horizon at sunset. As the month progresses, both will climb higher into the western sky. By the middle of the month, Mercury will be as high as it gets, about 18 degrees above the horizon. Brighter Venus will be below and left of Mercury. By March 21, they will again be about the same height in the sky, with Venus continuing to climb, and Mercury beginning to drop toward the Sun. Late in the month, Mercury will get lost in the Sun’s glare, but Venus should be an easily visible “evening start” the entire month.

Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are still in the morning sky. Look to the south before sunup, and you’ll find the three of them forming almost a straight line in the sky. Jupiter will be pretty much due south, with Mars and Saturn in the southeast. The Moon will join them March 7-10, making the planets easier to locate. On the 7th, look for the Moon just above Jupiter. On the 9th it will be above Mars, on the 10th between Mars and Saturn, and on the 11th to the left of Saturn. Later in the month, you may notice that Mars is approaching Saturn. By the end of the month, Mars will be very close to Saturn in our sky, and will move past the ringed planet in early April.

A relatively faint but familiar constellation graces our northern skies the entire year – Ursa Minor. The “Little Bear” or “Little Dipper” lies near its more famous cousin, Ursa Major, the “Great Bear” which includes the Big Dipper. Ursa Minor contains a very important star, Polaris. The “north star” sits almost exactly at the north celestial pole, above the Earth’s North Pole. If you were standing at the North Pole, Polaris would be directly overhead. Its location above the pole also means that it doesn’t appear to move as the Earth rotates. All the other stars appear to move across the sky as our planet spins on its axis, except for stationary Polaris. This gives it great value for navigation. In addition to helping locate due north, Polaris helps navigators determine latitude, the distance from the Equator or pole. At the equator (zero degrees latitude), Polaris is on the horizon. At the North Pole (90 degrees latitude), Polaris is directly overhead, 90 degrees from the horizon. Here in our area, about ½ way between the Equator and North Pole, Polaris is about ½ way up in the sky. Sailors can determine their latitude by measuring how high Polaris is above the horizon.

Enjoy March Skies!

What’s in the Sky

February 2018

If you’re reading this before the end of January, don’t miss the lunar eclipse on Jan. 31, early in the morning.  The Moon will be larger than average, a “Supermoon”, where the Moon is about as close as it gets to Earth.  In February, the interest involving the Moon is in what does not happen – there will be no full Moon during the month.  That can happen only in February, and last happened in 1999.  It’ll next occur in 2037.  And guess what – in that year there also will be a lunar eclipse on the morning of Jan. 31!

The progress of the seasons begins to pick up steam in February, and you’ll begin to notice it.  By the end of February, we’ll be gaining about 3 minutes of daylight each day.  By contrast, at the start of the year, we only gain about a minute a day.  By the end of the month, we’ll have about 11 hours of daylight.

Bright planets once again are absent in our evening sky, but shine brightly in the morning before sunrise.  The Moon provides a guide as it orbits the Earth, passing near several of our solar system neighbors.  On the 7th, look for the 3rd quarter Moon just above Jupiter in the southern sky at 6am.  Two days later, the Moon will be just to the left of Mars.  On the 11th, look for the thin crescent Moon just above Saturn.  The picture with this article should help.

Mars will pass close to the bright star Antares, the 15th brightest star in the sky, in February.  Antares has a distinct reddish color, and early astronomers compared it to the red planet.  In Greek, Antares means “like Mars” or “rivaling Mars”.  A pair of binoculars can allow you to see the similarity in color.  In February, Mars and Antares will be about the same brightness.  The real similarity ends there, though.  While Mars is a small, rocky planet, Antares is a red giant star, about 600 light-years from us.  The star is enormous; if it were placed where the Sun is, Earth’s orbit and Mar’s orbit would both be inside the star!

Look in the eastern evening sky in February, and you’ll see the first of spring’s constellations beginning to peek above the horizon.  One prominent spring constellation is Leo, the lion.  I always think of Leo as being “underneath” the bowl of the Big Dipper.  Look to the east/northeast, and find the dipper with its “handle” pointing down and the bowl above it.  Look to the right of the bowl, and slightly below it, to find Leo.  In between you’ll find the faint constellation Leo Minor.  Look for Leo’s brightest star, Regulus; it will be the brightest star you’ll see below the Big Dipper.  Regulus forms the base of the lion’s head, which looks to me like a backwards question mark.  The lion’s body lies below the head as we see it.  The lion’s rear is formed by three moderately bright stars that make up a triangle.  The base of the triangle is the brightest of the group, Denebola.  In Arabic, Denebola roughly translates to “tail of the lion”.

Enjoy the night skies of February!


What’s in the Sky

Happy New Year!  We open 2018 with another “Supermoon” on New Year’s Day.  You may have seen the last full Moon on December 3, which was also a Supermoon.  Skies were clear in our area, and we were treated to a brighter and slightly larger than average Moon.  Supermoons occur when the Moon is at or near its closest approach to Earth when it is full.  On January 1, the Moon will be about 221,000 miles from Earth, closer than the average of about 238,000.  It is still smaller in our sky than many people realize.  If you look at the Moon through a drinking straw, you can see the entire Moon in that small area, even a Supermoon Try it! 

The Moon is not done with us on New Year’s Day.  On the last day of January, we’ll have another full Moon, and this one will be eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow.  The full lunar eclipse will occur early in the morning hours of the 31st.  The eclipse will start at about 3am, but will not be really noticeable until about 4am, when the full shadow of the Earth starts to creep across the lunar surface.  The eclipse will be full by about 4:50am.  Unlike solar eclipses, where totality lasts only a few minutes, the lunar eclipse totality will last until a bit after 6am, over an hour.  The Moon will be visible, and will be reddish in color.  The color is caused by the Earth’s atmosphere.  Even though the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon, light passing through our atmosphere is refracted (bent) and strikes the Moon.  Long wavelength red light rays are scattered less by our atmosphere, and more of them reach the Moon, causing it to appear reddish.  The same principle applies here on Earth at sunrise and sunset, when sunlight at low angles passes through more of Earth’s atmosphere, and we get red color in the clouds and mountains.

Our bright planets are pretty much absent from the evening sky in January, but the morning sky has some highlights.  Jupiter and Mars are both visible in the southeast.  Early in the month, Mars will be above and to the right of Jupiter.  On the 6th, they will pass very near each other from our vantage point.  After that, Mars will be below and to the left of Jupiter.  By the end of January, Mars will have pulled well away from Jupiter.  Below and to the left of Mars, before sunrise, you may be able to pick up Saturn, just entering the morning sky in the southeast.

If you can brave the cold, clear January nights yield some very impressive, bright stars.  Many are familiar with the outline of Orion, the hunter.  Orion will be in the southern sky during January evenings.  Below and to the left of Orion, find Canis Major, one of Orion’s hunting dogs.  Our sky’s brightest star, Sirius, lies in Canis Major, to the left of Orion.  Orion includes Rigel (7th brightest) and Betelgeuse (10th).  Canis Minor, Orion’s other dog, has Procyon, the 8th brightest.  Above Orion, the Taurus the bull has Aldebaran, a red giant star, 14th on the list.  Higher still in the night sky are the Gemini twins Pollux (#17) and Castor (#23).  Finally, almost straight overhead in the

constellation Auriga is Capella, the 6th brightest star.  The picture included with this article can help you identify them. They make for a beautiful winter sight, brave the cold and give them a look.  See how many you can identify!