March/April Sky ’06
March/April Sky ’06
The days have lengthened since we last spoke and are now lunging towards the equinox on March 20th at 10:26 AM. The winter solstice is over and winter is loosening it’s grip, have you noticed? Me either, as I write this in January but by March and April we will all notice it. Interesting how the shortest day is not necessarily the coldest nor the longest the hottest.
In the last gator we looked west toward the sunset and saw the summer triangle setting. We won’t see it again at this time of night till summer. l;’ Orion is now prominent high in the south most of the night with his faithful dog Canis Major at his heals to our left and Sirius the dog star pretty much on line with the three in a row belt to our left. Notice how Sirius shines so bright, literally the brightest star in the sky [only planets can be brighter]. I love the way it sparkles and flashes from the 9 light years of “empty” space between us. A light year is the distance a ray of sunlight travels in a year…. very, very far! If Sirius is the dog’s heart you can make out a leg below it and to our left a triangle making up another leg and tail and his rump fairly realistically. You sort of guess at his head above Sirius. He’s a big guy. Above him is Canis Minor, the little dog, with really only a bright and beautiful star, Procyon to indicate it. Sirius, Procyon and Betelgeuse [more in a moment] make a nice equilateral triangle together. Each leg of the triangle is about 25º and this can come in handy as a measuring device.Orion the Great but boastful Hunter is one of the very clearest constellations for me: three stars evenly spaced make up his belt. Below the belt is his sword hanging at an angle with some wonderful stuff [including the Orion Nebula] worth a telescope or even binocular look. Two bent legs seem to run below that [this is my own subjective artists eye view for the knee to our right is actually out of the Orion’s official space, but I don’t care]. Rigel is the bright star making up that foot to our right as I look at it. Above his belt are two stars about where shoulders should be the left one is the famous Betelgeuse with that arm holding a club aloft. The right hand shoulder, Bellatrix, leads to an outstretched shield. The small triangle above that is his head. Some Orion lore includes his bragging about being able to conquer any animal and then being stung to death by a scorpion [sent by Jupiter] who got put in the sky opposite of him in such a way that the two never again see each other nor do we ever see them at the same time. To the ancient Egyptians this great hunter is Osiris, God of the underworld, the judge of the dead. Whoowwwaaaa……A bit farther out to our right is a triangle shape made of 5 stars at least, called Hyades which is the head and start of the horns of Taurus the bull. Aldebaran is that bright star in the “V”. Mars is right close by in March and not as bright as last time we talked about it. Continuing along the same line is a little clump of stars called the Pleiades, the seven sisters and the daughters of Atlas. This is one of my favorite constellations, the Greeks used it as an eye test: can you see 6 or 7 “sister?” If six see your optometrist! If you look at these sisters with your binoculars you will see it’s really a splash of hundreds of stars just past our naked eye’s ability to see. Cooool! So this group, almost a string of clear interesting constellations, is these month’s nightly playground. greeley