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Winter is just getting cranked up here in the northern hemisphere, but you can already find a hint of spring in the air — in the pre-dawn sky. The stars and constellations that are in view a couple of hours before sunrise right now are the same ones that’ll be in view a couple of hours after sunset in late April.
Look high in the east, for example, for yellow Arcturus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. Low in the northeast, you’ll find slightly fainter Vega, the top point of the Summer Triangle. And between Vega and Arcturus, look for Hercules. It’s marked by an off-kilter “square” of stars known as the Keystone.
Over in the west, the twins of Gemini stand upright. The stars that mark their heads, Pollux and Castor, remind some skywatchers of a pair of eyes. And two bright stars flank the constellation: Procyon to the left and Capella farther to the right.
All of these stars rise and set about four minutes earlier each night. So in four months, the stars that are now in the east before dawn will be rising eight hours earlier. With the change in the time of sunrise and sunset, that means they’ll be in good view after dusk — ready to put on a good show all night.
And the stars that are now in the west before dawn will disappear before midnight in April — getting ready to reappear in the morning sky not long afte, continuing the cycle of stars through the seasons.
We’ll talk about the current evening sky tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield