The warmer nights of spring bring a panoply of new stars and constellations. Leo is in good view by nightfall, climbing straight up from the eastern horizon, led by his bright “heart,” Regulus. Virgo follows a couple of hours later; the maiden’s brightest star, Spica, looks like a near twin to Regulus. The planet Venus continues its climb into the western sky as the Evening Star, while Mars, which is near Venus as the month begins, drops ever lower into the twilight.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
March 27: First-Quarter Moon
The Moon is at first quarter today. The label is a bit misleading because sunlight illuminates half of the hemisphere that faces our way. “First quarter” indicates that the Moon is one-quarter of the way through its cycle of phases.
March 28: Moon in the Middle
The gibbous Moon passes through the middle of a triangle of bright objects tonight: the planet Jupiter, the star Procyon, and the “twins” of Gemini. The brightest point of the triangle is Jupiter, which is to the left of the Moon as night falls.
March 29: Moon and Jupiter
Jupiter huddles close to the Moon tonight. The planet looks like a brilliant cream-colored star close to the upper left of the Moon at nightfall.
March 30: Moon and Regulus
Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, the lion, stands to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall. Regulus actually consists of two pairs of stars. Only one member of the quartet is bright enough to see with the unaided eye, however.
March 31: Denebola
The Moon cruises past the heart of the lion tonight. Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, stands above the Moon in early evening. The lion’s body trails to the lower left of Regulus. It ends at the star Denebola, at the tip of the lion’s tail.
April 1: Cor Caroli
Cor Caroli, the brightest star in Canes Venatici, is in the east as darkness falls, not far from the Big Dipper. The star's name means “the heart of Charles.” Edmund Halley, the British astronomer royal, named it in honor of King Charles II.
April 2: Eclipses Through the Ages
The 30th eclipse in a series that began in 1492 takes place early Saturday, with all or part of it visible across the United States. An eclipse series is known as a Saros. This one will consist of 71 eclipses, with the final event in 2754.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.