Arcturus, guardian star of Great, Little Bears


The giant star that ushered in the spring season is bowing out now that we've celebrated the Autumn Equinox and Harvest Moon. It's as if that nighttime sun, Arcturus, summer's brightest star, has kept killing frosts at bay.

Linger with its light before the orange-red dazzler disappears from the evening sky. It is already quite low in the west, visible soon after sundown and until it sets at around 9 p.m. all week.

Arcturus is Greek for "bear keeper." According to myth, this star was created by Zeus to protect the Great Bear (Ursa Major) and Little Bear (Ursa Minor), nearby constellations.

As the sky darkens, the stars of the majestic and unmistakable Big Dipper appear above and to the right of Arcturus. The Big and Little Dipper, respectively, are readily seen star groupings (asterisms) within the more challenging-to-discern official constellations, the Great and Little Bear.

To find the Little Dipper, follow the Pointers, the two stars at the outer edge of the bowl of the Big Dipper. Observe the distance between the Pointers and count five lengths out to a rather dim star.

This is the significant North Star that is also known as Polaris or the Pole Star. It is at the top of the Little Dipper's handle.

With patient looking, and a dark sky, the light of a few more dim stars reaches our eyes, taking the shape of a curved handle which leads to a brighter and a dimmer star that mark the edge of the bowl of the Little Dipper.

These two stars are the Guardians of the Pole.

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