Looking Up

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Looking Up

If you look straight up as the sky gets dark this evening, you won’t see much of anything. The region that’s high overhead is populated by some especially faint stars and constellations. But there’s a ring of brighter stars around it.

The point directly overhead is called the zenith. And most of the time, unless you’re lying on a blanket and just watching the stars, you’re not likely to pay it much attention. It’s just too uncomfortable to tilt your head back that much. Instead, most of us look at what’s closer to eye level.

Sometimes, it’s worth looking up there. Tonight really isn’t one of those times. The constellations near the zenith at nightfall include Leo Minor, the little lion; Lynx, a constellation so faint that you need the eyes of a cat to see it; and the part of Ursa Major that includes the feet and legs of the great bear, which are faint. And there’s an almost-full Moon in the sky, which overpowers dimmer stars.

But if you look a little below the zenith, the view is more impressive.

High in the south, for example, there’s Regulus, the bright heart of Leo, the big lion. And about the same height in the west, you’ll find Pollux and Castor, the “twin” stars of Gemini.

Finally, in the northeast, you’ll find perhaps the most famous star pattern of all: the Big Dipper. Its stars outline the body and tail of Ursa Major. They’re the easy-to-spot parts of the great bear, standing high in the sky — just not at the zenith.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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