“Gateway to the Stars” on April 7: Leo the Guidepost!

Mike Murray

The transition into early Spring gives us a great opportunity to see some of our favorite constellations from the Winter (like Orion the Hunter) but also some great previews of the Spring stars. Join us for “Gateway to the Stars“, Saturday, April 7. 

The stars of Leo

Leo the Lion is one of our best guideposts for this time of the year as it climbs high into eastern sky.  The heart of the lion is punctuated by the bright star Regulus, one of the brightest stars in the sky.  It is a blue-white star 4 times larger than the sun, at a mere 77 light years away.  It lies almost directly on the “ecliptic” – the apparent path of the sun which the moon and planets also follow close to.  Because of this,  the moon and planets sometimes pass very close to Regulus in the sky.

This is exactly the case right now because Mars (which just made it’s close approach to Earth on March 3) is a mere 5 degrees east of Regulus (left of Regulus if you’re facing south).  It is still quite bright and will show a distinct orangish color.  Unlike Regulus, however, Mars will not be twinkling!  We’ll explain more about why in the show.

The Beehive Star Cluster

We can use the arrangement of Leo’s stars to guide us to other areas of interest in the sky.  For example, we’ll use the front of the constellation (shaped like a backward question mark) to curve us toward the “Beehive Star Cluster” in Cancer the Crab.  This beautiful open cluster of stars is barely visible to the naked eye under clear, dark conditions.  But it’s a wonderful site in binoculars from any location.

Jupiter and Venus are still visible in the western sky although they have separated considerably since last month.  Venus will lie close to the Pleiades Star Cluster (the “Seven Sisters”) but to see Jupiter you’ll have to look during dusk (about 8:30 pm) where it will lie much closer to the western horizon.

It’s time to enjoy the warmer weather and the celestial sights of Spring!  Showtime is Saturday, April 7 at 6:45 pm in the Hansen Dome Theatre.

Tickets for this presentation are $1 at the ticket window or $2 online. Members are free.

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