East-northeast to south-southwest, March 2, 9 p.m. Orion upper right, waxing first quarter moon above (not shown). Image: Judy Isacoff/StarryNight

EYES TO THE SKY: Spring stars rising, NEAF

The most outstanding spring star, orange-hued Arcturus, is the second brightest distant sun in northern skies.

March 2 – 15, 2020

Mount Washington — Spring stars appear in our evening sky as rhythmically as pussy willow and snowdrop blossoms emerge here on Earth in the northeast. As March begins, the constellation Leo the Lion, in full figure, stretches above the eastern horizon at nightfall. The expression “March comes in like a Lion” likely had cosmic roots before its familiar reference to fierce winds.

As I gaze up to the Lion from beside a darkening thicket, a peculiar sound, an emphatic nasal “peent,” breaks the wintry silence. I am stirred as I recognize the primeval voices of woodcocks announcing their return. All the Lion’s stars, from brightest Regulus at its front foot to bright Denebola at its tail, come into view during the course of about 60 to 90 minutes after sunset.

On March 7 and 8, 2020, the moon is moving through the constellation Leo the Lion, past Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, representing the Lion’s Heart. On these nights, the glare of the bright waxing gibbous moon will bleach out the Lion’s stars. But you’ll likely see Regulus, which is a first-magnitude star, that is, one of our sky’s brightest stars. In another week, the moon will drop out of the evening sky, allowing you to view the Lion in all his
majestic splendor. Image courtesy EarthSky.org

Sundown is at 5:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time today and about a minute later every day through the 7th. Eastern Daylight Time begins at 2 a.m. on March 8, when clocks are set one hour ahead. Sunset by the clock does not coincide with actual sunset from March 8 until Nov. 1, when we return to Eastern Standard Time. On the 8th, sundown is at 6:52 p.m. EDT.

The most outstanding spring star, orange-hued Arcturus, is the second brightest distant sun in northern skies. Arcturus rises above the east-northeast skyline at 8:08 p.m. tonight, about two hours after Leo’s tail star, Denebola. Brilliant Arcturus appears 4 minutes earlier every evening. Adjust times for hilly locations. When I observe the golden star close above the east-northeast skyline, I stand tall as witness to nighttime’s quintessential harbinger of spring. I am swept into the rising of the new season.

Refer to the diagram to see, on the left, the Big Dipper’s handle ‘arc to Arcturus.’ Notice hallmark stars and constellations of the winter season on the right. Brilliant Sirius, the Dog Star, the brightest star in the heavens, is descending toward the west as Arcturus ascends in the east.

Opportunity to participate

The Expedition 56 crew used a Nikon D3X camera to take these shots of the International Space Station from a Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft Oct. 4 2018. Photo: Roscosmos/NASA/Flickr

NEAF – nearby inspirational gathering for astronomy enthusiasts
April 4 & 5, 2020 Northeast Astronomy Forum – http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/neaf.html
April 2 & 3 Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference – http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/neaic.html


Image – https://www.space.com/42494-international-space-station-20-anniversary-gallery.html