Eyes to the Sky: Senses awaken to earth and sky


In the early morning and early evening, especially, there are new, yet familiar, voices aloft on the cool but not frigid air. The emphatic "konkiree" of redwing blackbirds, melodic lilt of robins and "crrekk" of regal wood ducks announce the new day and the new season.

A woodcock's "zeep" in the evening twilight bids farewell to winter, speaks of the courage required to be a part of the night as well as the birth of spring. Bird song turns our eyes to the treetops and then the sky, where winter's leaving and spring's return are written in the stars.

As dusk begins, Jupiter is a bright point of light high in the western sky. Since late autumn the king of planets has traveled with the great winter constellations: They rose in the east as darkness fell and traversed the heavens all night. This week we find them in the west-southwest for about three hours before they set. In a few weeks see them poised on the western horizon at nightfall, about to disappear from the evening sky.

Once you spot Jupiter, at about 7:50 p.m., look to the left to see the brightest true star visible from Earth, Sirius the Dog Star, in the southwest. As twilight deepens, Procyon marks the Little Dog, above Sirius. Then, Betelgeuse, the shoulder star of Orion the Hunter, and Rigel, his foot, come out between Sirius and Jupiter. Moments later, the red eye of Taurus, Aldebaran, appears below Jupiter and by 8:15 p.m. the three stars of Orion's belt reach the eye.

Look east to greet spring's nighttime suns. Arcturus, the second brightest star visible in the Northern Hemisphere, climbs over the eastern horizon as the sun sets in the west. Regulus is already at the top of the celestial dome in the south by 8:15 p.m. It is the foot star of Leo the Lion, the harbinger of spring constellation.

To contact Judy Isacoff: www.naturesturn.org.


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