There are lots of ways to mark the changing of the seasons. Spring, for example, brings warmer weather, wildflowers, and big thunderstorms. It also brings a whole new view in the night sky.
As night falls this evening, the stars of winter are dropping from view in the southwest, while the stars of spring are climbing into view in the east.
Over in the west, the V-shaped face of Taurus, the bull, points straight down at the horizon. To his left, the three stars of Orion's Belt line up parallel to the horizon. Follow them to Orion's left to Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
All of these stars will disappear from view over the next few weeks -- replaced by the stars of spring.
Leo, the lion, for example, is high in the east this evening. Look for his brightest star, Regulus. And down below him, Virgo and her brightest star, Spica, are just climbing into view. And to Spica's north, look for bright yellow-orange Arcturus, one of the brightest stars of the spring sky.
All of these stars will climb into better view over the coming weeks -- as the long nights of winter give way to the shorter, warmer nights of spring.
You can get guided tours of the changing sky at McDonald Observatory star parties, which take place every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday night. And tomorrow, McDonald is hosting an open house from 10 to 4, with guided tours and other special events -- and admission is free. Details are available at mcdonaldobservatory.org
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.