Nan at Night
By Nan Hoyt
-Friday the 11th: Look low in the west as twilight fades, about an hour after sunset, for the thin waxing crescent Moon. Look to its lower right for elusive Mercury.
-Saturday the 12th: During evening twilight, Mercury shines due west far below the Moon and a bit to the right. Today Mercury is at greatest elongation, 18 degrees east of the sun
. -Tuesday the 15th: Look for the dippershaped Pleiades to the lower right of the thick crescent Moon this evening. Orange Aldebaran stands a little farther to the Moon´s left.
-Wednesday the 16th: The bright star far to the upper right of the Moon this evening is Capella. Aldebaran is below the Moon and a bit left. Betelgeuse is farther left.
-Thursday the 17th: Happy St. Patrick´s Day! The first-quarter Moon, half lit, is near the center of the huge, nearly equilateral triangle formed by Capella, Saturn, and Betelgeuse. The transition from winter to spring is in high gear here on the planet as well as up in the sky. The winter constellations including Orion and his bri ht family – Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, Canis Minor and Canis Major – are all sliding away into the west toward their eventual demise into the sunset. While in the east, the milder springtime assemblage – Leo, Hydra, Ursa Major, and Virgo- are rising to their ascendancy in the sky. The orientation of Orion´s belt is a telltale sign of the changing seasons in itself. It´s vertical when Orion is on the rise in late-fall and early winter evenings, diagonal when Orion stands at his zenith in the middle of winter, and horizontal when Orion descends into the southwest in springtime. Of course this is only for us folks above the equator as I found out on a springtime trip to Australia. In the southern hemisphere, Orion´s not only upside down and moving backwards, he´s a constellation of summer. These particulars confirm that the night sky is not only a beauty to behold but also a map and a guide to travelers and dreamers alike.
*Sources: thanks to Star Date magazine, National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky and
Reprinted with permission from The Sierra Mountain Times