Friday, January 27, 2006

May 3, 2001

Just a couple of months ago the stars beckoned while we ate dinner. But the switch to Daylight Saving Time, and the longer days and longer twilights of spring are conspiring to restrict the night, so the celestial scene begins to belong to insomniacs and children's dreams.

The Big Dipper is the guide to May's highlight high lights. Find it near the top of the sky. If you are facing south, then it will be over the top, so you'll be craning back a bit. From this orientation the Dipper is right-side-up, with the handle on the left.

Now follow that handle down to the left with your eyes, and you will "arc to Arcturus," the brightest star of spring. It's orange.

Continue the arc an equal distance, and you will arrive at Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.

Complete the circle back to the Dipper and you will pass leaping Leo the lion, with the bright star Regulus at the bottom of a reverse question mark.

Meantime, May's highlight low lights are the planets Mars and Venus. Although relatively low in altitude, they are high in brilliance.

Venus is the Morning Star, in the east before dawn.

But it is Mars that busts the evening brightness records, outshining everything but the Moon. Look for the red "star" rising in the east around midnight tonight, and earlier thereafter.

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