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Star Gazing - March 19, 2018

Monday, March 19

• If the crescent Moon were a bow, it would shoot an arrow to the lower right just past Venus in this evening's twilight,
as shown above.

• After dark, Sirius shines brilliantly in the south-southwest. Lower left of Sirius, by about one fist, is the triangle of
Adhara, Wezen, and Aludra, from right to left. They form Canis Major's hind foot, rear end, and tail, respectively.

Just left or upper left of them, forming a 3rd- and 4th-magnitude arc, are the three uppermost stars of the constellation
Puppis. No it's not a pup, despite its nearness to the Big Dog. It's the Poop Deck (stern) of the giant ancient
constellation Argo Navis, the ship of Jason and the Argonauts. These three stars the only ones of Argo that are readily
visible naked-eye from mid-northern latitudes.
Melotte 111

The sprawling Coma Star Cluster, with north up. The bright star at lower right is Denebola. On the opposite side of the
cluster is Cor Caroli (Alpha Canum Venaticorum). North here is up; mentally turn this view about 45°
counterclockwise to match its orientation in the east after dark.

Tuesday, March 20

• Today is the equinox. At 12:15 p.m. EDT the center of the Sun crosses the equator — both Earth's equator and the
celestial equator, which Earth's equator defines. This moment marks the beginning of spring in the Northern
Hemisphere, fall in the Southern Hemisphere.

And no, eggs don't balance better today than at any other time!

• After dark Leo strides up the eastern sky, with his brightest star Regulus in his forefoot and the Sickle of Leo
extending upper left from there.

About two fists lower left of Regulus are the two stars of Leo's rear end and tail: Delta Leonis (magnitude 2.5) and,
below it, slightly brighter Beta Leonis, or Denebola, the tail tip (magnitude 2.1).

As evening grows late and this scene rises higher, look left of Denebola, by a fist or a little bit more, for the big, dim
Coma Berenices star cluster. Its brightest members form an upside-down, tilted Y. It's visible even through some light
pollution. If you can't see it naked-eye, binoculars reveal it well, looking rather ragged and more or less filling the field
of view.
Moon and Aldebaran, March 21, 22, 23, 2018

The thickening Moon now works its way high through Taurus. The blue 10° scale is about the size of your fist held
at arm's length. In these scenes the Moon is always drawn three times its actual apparent size.

Wednesday, March 21

• Upper right of the crescent Moon this evening, you'll find the Pleiades. Upper left of the Moon are Aldebaran and the

• Do you know how to find the horntips of Taurus, Zeta (ζ) and Beta (β) Tauri? One way is to extend the sides of the
Hyades V way up, by about a fist and a half, as shown here. (The Moon will join them in two days.)

But another way uses brighter stars. Spot Betelgeuse high in the southwest these evenings. It's Orion's topmost bright
star. Then look high in the northwest for Capella, even brighter. The horntips of Taurus lie halfway between them,
lined up with them. Beta, on the right, is the brighter of the two.

Thursday, March 22

• Aldebaran pairs closely with the Moon this evening.

• Castor and Pollux shine together nearly overhead in the south after dark. Pollux is slightly the brighter of these
"twins." Draw a line from Castor through Pollux, follow it farther out by a big 26° (about 2½ fist-widths at arm's
length), and you're at the dim head of Hydra, the Sea Serpent. In a dark sky it's a subtle but distinctive star grouping,
about the size of your thumb at arm's length. Binoculars show it easily through light pollution or moonlight.

Continue the line farther by another fist and a half and you hit Alphard, Hydra's orange heart.

Another way to find the head of Hydra: It's almost midway from Procyon to Regulus.

Friday, March 23

• The Moon joins the lineup of Betelgeuse, the Taurus horntips, and Capella. See Wednesday above.

• Now that it's spring, the signature fall-and-winter constellation Cassiopeia is retreating downward after dark. But for
skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes Cassiopeia is circumpolar, never going away completely. Look for it fairly low in
the north-northwest these evenings. It's still standing nearly on end.

Saturday, March 24

• First-quarter Moon (exact at 11:35 a.m. EDT). This evening the Moon shines high above Orion, in the feet of Gemini
below Castor and Pollux.
current night sky over Nashville, TN
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Starry, Starry Night . . .
"I know nothing of any certainty, but the sight of the stars
makes me dream." -Vincent Van Gogh