Even in the doldrums, some stars bear watching

  • By Mike Lynch
  • Friday, March 28, 2014 12:45pm
  • Life

As the Earth continues on its never-ending journey around the sun, our evening view of the heavens is turning away from the bright winter constellations and toward the less-than-awesome spring star patterns on the rise in the east.

The bright winter constellations are still hanging in there in the west, but this is their swan song. Next month most of them will be gone below the western horizon and we won’t see them in the evening again until late next fall. To be truly honest with you, many amateur astronomers, including this star-watching lover, agree that until the summer constellations like Cygnus and Scorpio make their appearance we are officially in the spring doldrums of evening stargazing.

Without a doubt, the best thing to gaze at through your telescope from Everett this month is the planet Jupiter, still sandwiched in the constellation Gemini the Twins in the high southwest at the end of evening twilight. Even though it’s a little farther away at nearly 490 million miles and not quite as bright as it was at the start of 2014, it’s still a wonderful telescope target. Even with a smaller scope you can see up to four of Jupiter’s brighter moons depending on where they are in their individual orbits around the big guy of the solar system. You might also see a few cloud bands on Jupiter.

The Big Dipper is as high as it gets in the sky and it’s upside down. The old lore about the upside down Big Dipper is that it means we get more rain because the Dipper is unloading on us. It’s easy to see how that rumor got started in the days of old because, at least in the upper Midwest, we get most of our rainfall in the late spring and early summer.

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis and is author of the book, “Stars, a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations.”

Instructions for sky map

To use this map, cut it out and attach it to a stiff backing. Hold it over your head and line up the compass points on the map to the compass points on the horizon where you’re observing from. East and West on this map are not backwards. This is not a misprint. I guarantee that when you hold this map over your head, east and west will be in their proper positions. Also use a small flashlight and attach a red piece of cloth or red construction paper over the lens of the flashlight. You won’t lose your night vision when you look at this map in red light.

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