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The glare of the full Moon overpowers most of the stars around it. Only the brightest of stars shine through. And that’s what we have tonight. Three bright stars form a wide triangle, with the Moon along one side of it.
The star that appears closest to the Moon is Pollux, the brighter of the twins of Gemini. It’s above the Moon at nightfall. It’s a stellar giant — it’s much bigger and brighter than the Sun. It’s well past the prime of life, so it’s puffed up to giant proportions. And it’s only about 34 light-years away. The combination of size and distance makes it bright and easy to spot.
The next-closest companion star is Regulus, the leading light of Leo, the lion. It climbs into good view below the Moon by about 8 o’clock.
Regulus is a binary — two stars locked in a tight orbit around each other. The main star is much brighter and more massive than the Sun. Its companion is a white dwarf — the small, faint, dead core of a star. The system is about 80 light-years away.
The final companion is Procyon, which is well to the right of the Moon. It’s the brightest star of the little dog, so it’s known as the Little Dog Star. It, too, is a binary. And like Regulus, it consists of a star in the prime of life paired with a white dwarf. The system is among our closest neighbors — only about 11 light-years away.
Look for this trio of bright stars shining through the brilliant moonlight all night long.
Script by Damond Benningfield