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Star Gazing - May 20, 2019

Monday, May 20

• The bright "star" upper right of the Moon late this evening is Jupiter. The giant planet is 40 times larger in
diameter than the Moon but is currently 1,700 times farther away.

Tuesday, May 21

• This is the time of year when Leo the Lion starts walking downward toward the west, on his way to
departing into the sunset in early summer. Right after dark, spot the brightest star fairly high in the west-
southwest. That's Regulus, his forefoot.

Wednesday, May 22

• Vega is well up in the east-northeast after dark. Look for its faint little constellation Lyra, the Lyre,
dangling down from it with its bottom canted to the right.

Thursday, May 23

• A gigantic asterism you may not know is the Diamond of Virgo, some 50° tall and extending over five
constellations. It currently stands upright in the south after the stars come out. Start with Spica, its bottom.
Upper left from Spica is bright Arcturus. Almost as far upper right from Arcturus (as you face south) is
fainter Cor Caroli, 3rd magnitude, almost overhead. The same distance lower right from there is Denebola,
the 2nd-magnitude tailtip of Leo. And then back to Spica.

The bottom three of these stars, the brightest, form a nearly perfect equilateral triangle. Maybe we should
call this the "Spring Triangle" to parallel those of summer and winter?

In you have a dark sky or binoculars, look halfway from Cor Caroli to Denebola for the very large, sparse
Coma Berenices star cluster. It spans some 4°, about the size of a ping-pong ball held at arm's length.

See Fred Schaaf's tour of this area in the May Sky & Telescope, page 45.

Friday, May 24

• Meanwhile the Summer Triangle is making its appearance in the east, one star after another. The first in
view as night descends is Vega, the brightest star in the east-northeast. Lower left it (by two or three fists
at arm's length) is Deneb. Farther to Vega's lower right is Altair, rising above the horizon not long after

Saturday, May 25

• Have you ever seen Alpha Centauri?! At declination –61° it's permanently out of sight if you're north of
latitude 29°. But if you're at the latitude of San Antonio, Orlando, or points south, Alpha Cen skims just
above your true southern horizon for a little while late these evenings.

When does this happen? Just about when Alpha Librae, the lower-right of Libra's two brightest stars, is due
south over your landscape. At that time, look straight down from there!
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