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May 5, 2019

Some of the icons of winter nights are disappearing behind the curtain of evening twilight. They’ll vanish within days, so there’s not much time left to enjoy them.

Orion is quite low in the west as twilight begins to fade right now. In fact, the constellation’s brightest star, Rigel, is so low that you might not be able to see it at all. But Orion’s three-star belt is still in view, lining up parallel to the horizon. And bright orange Betelgeuse is well above the belt, and is still in view by the time the sky gets fully dark.

Off to the left of the belt, look for brilliant Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. It’s the Dog Star — the leading light of Canis Major, the Big Dog. It’s still in view as the sky gets dark, too.

Like all stars, those of Canis Major and Orion rise and set about four minutes earlier each day. That’s why each star and constellation has its own season. So these bright stars will be a little lower in the sky each evening, dropping deeper into the twilight.

At the same time, though, the Sun is setting a little later each night as well. It’s not by as much as the stars, but the extra seconds help mitigate their disappearance. When you add it all up, it means that Sirius and Orion’s Belt should vanish in the twilight in the next week or two, with Betelgeuse following soon after.

Orion will return to view by the end of July — this time in the dawn twilight — with Sirius following a couple of weeks later.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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