Eyes to the Sky: Sunny mornings and other celestial wonders


Autumn days are longer, and sunnier, when we include the other suns of our galaxy, the stars, in our worldview and our day. To look into the mysterious glow that is the starry Milky Way is to feel a part of the galaxy that is our home, our place in outer space. It is still visible on dark, Berkshire mornings at 5:30. Familiar constellations of winter and early spring nights -- from Leo the Lion to Orion the Hunter -- paint autumn's morning sky until about 6:15, that's 15 minutes later than two weeks ago.

Not outdoors until 6:30? The brightest stars seen from the northern hemisphere persist even as a cerulean band of light spreads and brightens from the east and the star patterns have faded.

Saturday morning and into next week, until around 6:30, look up to find brilliant Jupiter high in the southeast, slightly below Castor and Pollux, the brightest stars of the constellation Gemini the Twins. Below the planet is Procyon of Canis Minor, red Betelgeuse of Orion to its right and, farther right, red Aldebaran of Taurus the Bull. Second in brilliance to Jupiter, Sirius of Canis Major shines below Procyon. Rigel is to the right of Sirius. The bright, yellowish star near the top of the sky is Capella of the Charioteer.

Tawny planet Mars disappears from sight before the brightest stars: the planet can be found in the east near Regulus, the foot (or heart) star of Leo, until about 6.

Since last September, with the aid of telescopes, astronomers and amateur astronomers have been busy following a comet's approach to the inner solar system. Comet Ison, a hopeful for naked eye viewing toward the end of next month, is now being spotted close to Mars.

To contact Judy Isacoff go to www.naturesturn.org


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