Spring Sky


Now that spring is here the winter stars are in the west, and new stars are rising in the east. There are only three bright stars in the spring which also form the Spring Triangle. They are Regulus, Arcturus and Spica. The three constellations they are part of are Leo the Lion, Bootes the Bear Driver and Virgo the Maiden.

The Spring Triangle is easy to find. It's an asterism that covers a large part of the southeast sky in the spring. Arcturus is in Bootes, Spica is the hand of Virgo and of course Regulus is the heart of Leo the Lion.

Regulus is the highest up of the stars which makes it the first star to rise and set in the Triangle. It's in the SE and is a blue-white star. Arcturus is the next to appear followed closely by Spica. When you look up in the SE, Regulus is two-thirds of the way up in the sky with Arcturus way down on its lower left and Spica far to the right of Arcturus. Regulus and Spica are along the ecliptic where the moon, Sun and planets travel alone.

Bootes is a kite shaped constellation. When it first appears in the spring it looks like a wide necktie hanging in the sky. It's called the Bear Driver because it appears to be chasing Ursa Major, the Big Bear constellation that the Big Dipper is part of. There is a faint constellation between them called Canes Veratici that's supposed to be Bootes 2 dogs helping him chase the bear. You need a clear dark sky to see it.

Ursa Major circles the North Star and Bootes follows him through the year. To find Bootes, first find the Big Dipper. Then follow the line of the handle that points over to Arcturus. "Follow the Arc to Arcturus". It's high in the SE May and June.

Arcturus is the fourth-brightest star in the entire sky. It's orange in color which tells us that it's cooler than our Sun. It's about 37 LY from us, so it's one of our closest stars. It's an orange giant 25 times the diameter of our Sun and 170 times brighter.

Since the new Moon is on April 1, this is a great time for sky viewing. Because we’re now on Daylight Savings Time, you’ll just have to look a little later in the evening. In the morning you’ll be able to see the planets. Venus is still bright, and Saturn and Mars are close by in the ESE.