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Turning Seasons

May 14, 2017

Some of the most prominent stars of fall and winter are getting ready to say farewell to the evening sky over the next few weeks. They’re in good view in the west and northwest right now, but it won’t be long before they’ll drop from sight.

As night falls, look almost due west for Procyon, the leading light of Canis Minor, the little dog. For most of us in the United States, it precedes Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, into the long nights of winter. As they set, though, Sirius goes first. So at nightfall right now, Sirius is already gone from view, but Procyon remains in sight for a couple of hours longer.

Pollux and Castor, the twins of Gemini, stand to the upper right of Procyon. Pollux is the brighter of the two, and shows a slightly orange color. A month from now, the twins will be so low in the sky that they’ll look like a pair of eyes glaring through the fading twilight.

And well to the lower right of Gemini, look for the brightest of the lingering winter lights: Capella, the brightest star of Auriga, the charioteer. The star is distinctly yellow-orange, which adds to its beauty.

All of these bright lights will disappear from view by the end of June. In fact, Capella will already be in view in the morning sky by then, with the others to follow in July and August. They’ll all move back into the evening sky by late fall — continuing the cycle of seasons in the heavens.

Tomorrow: matter versus antimatter.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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