The Moon has a familiar companion the next couple of evenings: Regulus, the heart of Leo, the lion. The bright star stands to the upper left of the Moon tonight, and closer to the right or lower right tomorrow night.
The Moon passes by Regulus about once a month. That’s because Regulus is just a whisker away from the ecliptic — the Sun’s path across the sky. The Moon stays close to the ecliptic as well, so it swings past Regulus on every loop through the starry background.
Not all of those encounters happen at night — some take place in daylight. In fact, as you see the Moon in the sky the next couple of afternoons, know that Regulus is right there with it.
The Moon also will pass Regulus in daylight in August — on the 21st, to be precise. On that day, though, for viewers in parts of the United States, Regulus will briefly pop into view. That’s because the Moon will pass directly in front of the Sun, creating a total solar eclipse. The path of totality will be a few dozen miles wide, and stretch from Oregon to South Carolina.
As the Moon covers the Sun, the sky will grow dark. The Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, will form a silvery glow around the intervening Moon. Several bright planets will pop into view — Venus and Mars on one side of the Sun, and Mercury and Jupiter on the other.
And Regulus will be there as well, partially immersed in the glow of the corona — not far from its frequent companion, the Moon.
Script by Damond Benningfield