I love star lore. The legends and stories attached to the stars carry us back centuries and tell us not only about the stars, but also about the stargazers of old.
The five naked-eye planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — are among the brightest objects visible in our earthly sky. These wandering stars occasionally pass close to one another as they thread their way through the 12 constellations of the zodiac.
In the course of one year, the sun makes a 360-degree circuit of the celestial sphere, passing in front of 12 different constellations in the background. These are the 12 constellations of the zodiac.
For the past few months, Jupiter has been the only planet visible during the early evening. Well, move over, Jupiter — Saturn is moving in.
What has nine heads, deadly breath, poisonous blood and stretches nearly one-third of the way around the whole sky? It’s the dreaded sea serpent known as the Hydra, defeated by Hercules in the second of his twelve labors and now forming the largest of our 88 constellations.
The celestial Bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, are coming out of their winter hibernation and can be seen parading around the north celestial pole this month.
The Spring Diamond asterism, also known as the Virgin’s Diamond, is marked at its corners by four of the brightest stars adorning the spring sky.
Comet PanSTARRS, the first of two bright comets expected this year, already has reached its peak brightness and is fading as it heads back to the outer solar system.
It’s been a long time since the aurora borealis has been seen in the Yampa Valley. The last good one I can recall was in November 2004. While most folks were snug in their beds during the wee hours of St. Patrick’s Day morning, a 1-billion-ton cloud of hot plasma, ejected from the sun Friday, slammed into the Earth’s protective magnetic field and sparked a moderate geomagnetic storm, sending auroras as far south as northern Colorado.
Comet PanSTARRS has entered our evening sky and will be at its very best in the week ahead. The comet is intrinsically bright, but it is so close to the sun right now that it cannot be viewed in a totally darkened sky.