Thankfully, we have had some bright clear evening skies to see Orion and the surrounding stars at their best. Just as well perhaps because the planets are conspicuous by their absence.
The following chart represents the night sky at 10.00pm GMT on the 8th of February and at 9.00pm GMT on the 23rd February. To use the chart, face your southern horizon at the appropriate time and you will see the stars in the chart.
There is no problem with navigation this month because Orion is on the right hand side of the chart. However we have been enjoying the bright stars in the winter sky recently and this month we are turning to some fainter ones. To the left and up from Orion is the zodiacal constellation Gemini- The Twins, with the easily found bright stars Castor and Pollux. Pollux is a magnitude 1.1 single yellow star but Castor is part of a multiple system. It can be resolved into two stars with a small telescope while a larger telescope will reveal a faint red companion. But each of these stars is a double making six stars altogether! The bodies of the twins are represented by two lines of faintish stars with their feet in the Milky Way. You should be able to pick out Alhena at magnitude 1.9, representing the feet of Pollux just over halfway between Pollux and Betelgeuse.
Below and to the left of Gemini lies another zodiacal constellation Cancer- The Crab. It is the faintest of the zodiacal constellations but is in a dark region of the sky between the bright stars of Gemini and Leo.
Finally below and to the left of Cancer and left of the bright star Procyon is the constellation Hydra- The Water Snake. It is the largest constellation in the night sky but its long chain of faint stars makes it hard to trace. Its brightest star, Alphard, marks its heart and six moderately bright stars form its head while its tail is in the southern hemisphere.
Something to look out for
First apologies for my optimism in suggesting that you would see the Moon and Venus together on the morning of 18th January. By the time the Sun was up the waning crescent Moon was lost in the Sun’s glare. You would have had to be observing before sunrise, a case of the early bird catches the worm! The evening sky is almost void of planets so try to catch a close approach of the Moon and Jupiter on Thursday 15th February. It will be a six day old crescent Moon and they will be visible after 6.00pm until midnight. Remember we will lose Jupiter from the night sky next month.
I hope everyone has managed to see the night sky on some of the clear evenings we have had. The constellation Orion is becoming easier to view in the evening and the planet Jupiter continues to impress.
Last month’s chart contained a fairly large section of the sky so it is repeated this month. The benefit is that everything is in the same position as last month but two hours earlier so you will see Orion higher in the sky earlier in the evening.
Besides being the centre of attraction Orion also points to all the other items on the chart so just enjoy the view!
Something to look out for
Saturn is setting earlier each evening and will soon be leaving our evening sky so that leaves Jupiter as the only planet to observe unassisted in the evening. It stands out in its own right but on Thursday 18th January it has a close approach with a seven day old Moon and the pair will be visible all evening. At present Venus is to be seen in the morning and although visible all month it will be joined by a waning crescent Moon on Monday 8th January. An added attraction to look out for.
The weather hasn’t been very kind to us recently so let’s hope there are clear skies ahead so that we can enjoy the winter sky. I failed to observe the daytime occultation of Venus by the Moon in November due to cloud cover but the Moon and Jupiter looked good together at the end of the month.
The following chart represents the night sky at 10.00pm GMT on the 8th of December and at 9.00pm GMT on the 23rd December. To use the chart, face your southern horizon at the appropriate time and you will see the stars in the chart.
This month the constellation Orion- The Hunter is the focus of our attention and no signposts are required to find it because it stands out so much on its own. However last month we looked at the constellations Auriga and Taurus and they are to the top and right of the chart so it should look familiar.
It doesn’t take much to visualise a hunter from the stars in Orion and even the less bright ones are quite distinctive. Orion’s right shoulder is represented by the star Betelgeuse, a variable red supergiant varying in magnitude from about 0.3 to 1.2 and the 7th brightest star in the northern hemisphere. It has the potential of going supernova at any time but I’ve probably said that in several blogs so don’t expect it to happen right away. It caused a bit of a stir recently when it dimmed more than usual but apparently that was due to an ejection of dust. An even brighter star Rigel, a blue supergiant of magnitude 0.2 represents Orion’s left foot. Bellatrix and Saiph are the two remaining stars which outline the body shape. Between these pairs of stars is a line of three stars going from south-east to north-west and they represent Orion’s belt and at a magnitude of around 2 they really stand out and give Orion an unmistakable appearance. Less bright but still visible to the unaided eye is Orion’s sword hanging from his belt. The bottom star of the sword should be visible in good conditions and above this is a fuzzy patch which is the much celebrated Orion nebula (aka M42) where star formation is taking place. Try to observe it through binoculars or a telescope if you get the chance.
Orion is a good starting point for making your way around the winter sky and if you follow a line from Orion’s belt to the upper right just below Bellatrix and beyond, you find the red giant star Aldebaran in Taurus. Continue the line beyond Aldebaran and you find the star cluster- The Pleiades. Having followed the line to the Pleiades turn ninety degrees to the left and you find the bright star Capella in the constellation Auriga, lying directly above Taurus. It is the 4th brightest star in the northern hemisphere at magnitude 0.1. Now follow Orion’s belt in the opposite direction and you find the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius- the Dog Star in the constellation Canis Major- the Greater Dog. At magnitude -1.4 it is twenty three times more luminous than the Sun and a mere 8.6 light years distant. Sirius is part of the asterism, the Winter Triangle (outlined in yellow on the chart), formed in conjunction with Betelgeuse and Procyon. The latter is east of Betegeuse in the constellation Canis Minor- the Lesser Dog and shines at magnitude 0.4.
Finally we have another asterism, the Winter Hexagon (outlined in red on the chart), roughly centred on Betegeuse and comprising the stars Sirius, Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Pollux and Procyon. You can enjoy these over the coming months as they travel westwards in the evening sky.
Something to look out for
If like me you failed to see the daytime occultation of Venus by the Moon last month, you have a chance for the next best thing when there is a close approach of the Moon and Venus on the morning of Friday 9th December. Jupiter has been bright in the sky on clear evenings and on Friday 22nd December it has a close approach with a ten days old Moon. Of course the December solstice occurs on the same day. Hopefully there will be plenty of opportunities to enjoy the winter skies.
Unlike most of the population, amateur astronomers can welcome the change from BST to GMT because the skies darken that bit earlier in the evenings. Let’s hope they stay clear so that we can enjoy the stars and planets.
The following chart represents the night sky at 10.00pm GMT on the 8th of November and at 9.00pm GMT on the 23rd November. To use the chart, face your southern horizon at the appropriate time and you will see the stars in the chart.
With Cassiopeia on the top right of the chart and Andromeda to the right hand side there should be no difficulty in finding your location in the night sky. The constellations Aries and Triangulum have been mentioned in recent months so the new ones this month are Perseus- the Greek mythological hero, Auriga- the Charioteer and Taurus- the Bull.
The constellation, Perseus, lies in the Milky Way below and to the left of Cassiopeia and to the left of Andromeda. A lot of imagination is required to make out the mythological hero but the line of stars containing Algol is meant to represent his left arm with his left hand holding the head of Medusa (represented by Algol) whom he has slain. The string of stars above that represents his right arm holding his sword while the downward string of stars to the left is his left leg. The brightest star is Mirphak, a 1.8 magnitude yellow supergiant but the better known Algol is an eclipsing binary with the eclipse lasting 10 hours with a period of less than three days. A nice challenge might be to watch Algol regularly to establish when the next minimum will occur then observe it for two hours either side of the minimum when most of the change in brightness happens. The magnitude dips from 2.1 to 3.4 during the eclipse and can be observed with the naked eye. The magnitude of Almach in Andromeda is about the same as Algol at its brightest and can be used as a useful comparison. (You can’t resolve the two stars with the naked eye that can only be done spectroscopically.)
The constellation, Auriga, is also in the milky way and contains, Capella, the fourth brightest star visible in the northern hemisphere at magnitude 0.1 and is only 42 light years from Earth. It is a star that one soon becomes familiar with during wintertime in the northern hemisphere. Auriga forms a roughly pentagonal shape but the bottom star, Alnath, is actually in the constellation Taurus.
Our final constellation this month is a zodiacal one- Taurus- the Bull. It lies just below Auriga and the star Alnath represents the tip of one of its horns with an adjacent star below and to the left representing the tip of its second horn and leading down to the brightest star in the constellation, Aldebaran. It is easily picked out because it is a red giant with a magnitude around 1.0 said to represent the eye of the bull. Taurus contains two open clusters- the ‘V’ shape to the right of Aldebaran and representing the face of the bull is an open cluster called the Hyades while to the north-west roughly in the direction of Algol is the more famous open cluster, the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. The latter is one of my favourites for unaided observation but if you can use binoculars much more is revealed in both of these.
Something to look out for
Jupiter will be at opposition on Friday 3rd November, visible most of the night from 6.00pm GMT onwards and at maximum altitude about midnight over the southern horizon. It will also be at its closest approach to the earth (perigee) at the same time.
On Thursday 9th November there will be a daytime occultation of Venus by the Moon between 9.45am and 10.45 am. It may not be possible to witness the whole event as the day brightens and always be careful with the Sun above the horizon and if possible use a building to block a direct line of sight to the Sun.
The Pleiades are well placed for viewing and will be at their highest point above the southern horizon about midnight on Saturday 18th.
There are two lunar close approaches to look out for. The Moon and Saturn above the southern horizon after 6.00pm on Monday 20th and the Moon and Jupiter best seen about 10.00pm on Saturday 25th.
We’ve had some clear evenings so I hope you have been making the most of them.
The following chart represents the night sky at 11.00pm BST on the 8th of October and at 10.00pm BST on the 23rd October. To use the chart, face your southern horizon at the appropriate time and you will see the stars in the chart.
We discussed the Great Square of Pegasus last month and we shall be using that as our starting point this month. Probably easier to start by locating Cassiopeia near your zenith then scanning down to find the Great Square of Pegasus. The brightest star in the square is Alpheratz in the top left hand corner and as mentioned last week it actually belongs to the constellation Andromeda- Princess Andromeda, daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia in Greek mythology. The main features of Andromeda are two curved strings of stars, extending to the left of Alpheratz, the lower of which stands out more with the presence of two stars, Mirach and Almach, of around magnitude 2 while the upper curve of stars is fainter with stars of magnitude 3 to 4.5. Also, Cassiopeia is just above it and to the east. Fortunately some of the brighter stars form natural pairs with the fainter stars making the latter fairly easy to locate. The constellation Andromeda is home to one of the most famous objects in the night sky- the Andromeda galaxy also known as M31 and shown on the chart by a red X labelled M31. The Andromeda galaxy is visible to the naked eye (apparent magnitude m = 3.4) but good conditions are required and it helps if you know exactly where to look. From Alpheratz, jump to the second pair of stars along the curved strings and extend a line from Mirach through the fainter star and the Andromeda galaxy will be at a distance approximately equal to the distance between the stars. Don’t expect to see a beautiful coloured spiral galaxy like you see in images from the Hubble or the James Webb telescopes, more of a smudge or fuzzy star. Nevertheless the fact that you are looking at the most distant object that you can see with the unaided eye at a distance of two and a half million light years (that means that the light entering your eye set out from Andromeda two and a half million years ago) should give you a sense of achievement and some wonder.
Below and to the left of Andromeda is the constellation Triangulum- The Triangle. There is not much to say about it because its brightest star is only magnitude 3 but at least it looks like a triangle and because it is compact it is easily picked out.
We have two zodiacal constellations to finish with, Aries- The Ram and Pisces- The Fishes. Both are pretty inconspicuous but Aries represents the golden fleece in Greek mythology and its claim to fame is that over two thousand years ago the vernal equinox lay on the border of Aries and Pisces and it is still referred to as the First Point of Aries. Since then, because of the precession of the Earth in its journey round the Sun (it wobbles very slowly like a spinning top), the vernal equinox has moved through Pisces towards Aquarius. Aries contains only one reasonably bright star, Hamal, a yellow giant of magnitude 2.
Pisces has no stars brighter than magnitude 3.6 so doesn’t have much to offer other than a distinctive ring of seven stars known as the Circlet lying below the Great Square of Pegasus.
Something to look out for
On Monday the 2nd October there will be a close approach of the Moon and Jupiter, low in the east just after they rise about 8.00pm BST but the later you leave it the higher in the sky they will be. This will be repeated on Sunday 29th October but by this time Jupiter will be rising about two hours earlier so there will be easier viewing all evening.
On Saturday 14th October there is going to be an annular solar eclipse but visible only in the Americas and even then only to a few but watch out for it on the news.
For the early birds amongst you Venus will be at its highest altitude in the morning sky on Wednesday 18th October, rising four hours ahead of the Sun (sunrise about 7.30am BST) and shining brightly at magnitude -4.4 well above the horizon.
Finally there will be a close approach of the Moon and Saturn on Tuesday 24th October visible above the southern horizon and at its highest altitude about 9.00pm BST.
Don’t forget that British Summer Time finishes on Sunday 29th October, remember to put your clocks back 1 hour.
Unfortunately we have had some challenging weather conditions recently so it hasn’t been beneficial for observing the night sky. However, as usual, the Blue Moon at the end of August made the headlines in the media.
The following chart represents the night sky at 11.00pm BST on the 8th of September and at 10.00pm BST on the 23rd September. To use the chart, face your southern horizon at the appropriate time and you will see the stars in the chart.
There is more on the chart than we really need but it helps to show where everything is with respect to each other. The constellation Andromeda is included but we will discuss that in more detail next month. This month the constellation of interest is Pegasus- The Winged Horse. The bottom edge of Cassiopeia and the Summer Triangle (outlined in red) are included just so that we can find our way about. So facing your southern horizon and looking up towards your zenith you will see the bright star Deneb, the tail of Cygnus the Swan, and further right the even brighter star Vega which enables us to pick out the Summer Triangle with Altair closer to the horizon. It is always good to see the Summer Triangle but now look eastwards and towards your zenith and you will find Cassiopeia. You should now be able to pick out the asterism, the Great Square of Pegasus, lying below Cassiopeia and to the east of the Summer Triangle. It stands out not because its stars are particularly bright but because it covers a pretty empty area of the sky. The constellation Pegasus doesn’t really bear any resemblance to a winged horse but the Great Square is easily recognised. The brightest star in the square, Alpheratz, at magnitude 2.1 is actually in the constellation Andromeda. The stars, Markab and Scheat, are similar in brightness with magnitudes of 2.5 and 2.7 respectively, but the former is a blue-white star while Scheat is a red giant variable. The final star is marginally dimmer at magnitude 2.8.
Something to look out for
There will be a close approach of the Moon and Jupiter on Monday 4th September, visible after 10.00pm just after Jupiter rises in the east. There is the Perseid meteor shower best seen around Saturday 9th September but the hourly rate of sightings is likely to be quite low. If you are an early bird, Venus will be at its brightest and highest altitude in the east on the early morning of Monday 18th September. Time moves on and there is the autumn equinox for the northern hemisphere on Saturday 23rd September.The Sun will rise due east and sink due west so perhaps you will be able to fix directions with a suitable landmark. More importantly for astronomers there will be more hours of darkness than daylight thereafter. Finally there will be a close approach of the Moon and Saturn on the 27th September. Of course the Moon will be obvious but the position of Saturn is shown in the chart and although visible throughout the evening it reaches its highest position in the sky about 11.00pm BST.
The following chart represents the night sky at 11.00pm BST on the 8th of August and at 10.00pm BST on the 23rd August. Normally we face south but as the circumpolar constellations are the objects of interest we shall be facing in a northerly direction.
Circumpolar constellations are the one which rotate anti-clockwise about the north pole star (Polaris) and never drop below the horizon throughout the year during the hours of darkness. The obvious ones are Ursa Major- The Great Bear and Cassiopeia- a queen in Greek mythology and wife of king Cepheus.. So looking north you will immediately see towards your lefthand side, The Plough, the well known asterism in the constellation Ursa Major- The Great Bear. The Plough has been outlined in red. The two bottom stars on the Plough, Merak and Dubhe, are known as the pointers because a line (shown in yellow) through them and extended about x5 the distance between them takes you to Polaris- the north pole star. It is the brightest star in Ursa Minor- The Little Bear, but not particularly bright at magnitude 2 but easy to locate as it is on its own. Ursa Minor mimics the shape of the Plough and Polaris sits at the end of its handle. Now take a line from Alioth, the third star from the end of the handle of the Plough, and extend it through Polaris by about the same distance again (shown by the second yellow line in the chart) and you see a bright star, the central one of a ‘W’ formation. This ‘W’ formation is an asterism in the constellation- Cassiopeia, but most people see the ‘W’ shape and call it Cassiopeia. The bright star was never given a name but was used for navigation in early space missions and has since been given the name Navi, an anagram of the middle name of Virgil Grissom who lost his life in the pursuit of space exploration.
This is a good time of year to see the Plough and Cassiopeia as neither is on the horizon as they rotate about the north pole star.
To the west of Cassiopeia and towards your zenith you will see a group of not very bright stars forming a shape similar to the gable end of a house. This is the constellation Cepheus- king Cepheus in Greek mythology and husband of queen Cassiopeia and father of princess Andromeda.
Finally, another large constellation Draco- The Dragon, can be found with its tail wrapping itself around Ursa Minor but it has no stars brighter than magnitude 2.
Something to look out for
All good things come to an end and we have lost the sight of Venus in the evening sky as it has passed inferior conjunction and is very close to the Sun. Mars is heading for solar conjunction behind the Sun but Saturn will be at opposition on the 27th August and will be seen in the south-east before 10 pm. Make the most of this opportunity because Saturn’s ring will become more edge on over the next two years and will be harder to see. On the 30th August there will be a close approach of a nearly full Moon and Saturn.
Although the summer solstice is past you still have to stay up late to get the benefits of a dark sky. June provided plenty of clear nights but unfortunately clouded over for the combination of a crescent Moon, Venus and Mars togetther on the 22nd June. However the sky was clear later in the month to see The Moon and Mars fairly close.
The following chart represents the night sky at 11.00pm BST on the 8th of Jul and at 10.00pm BST on the 23rd July. To use the chart, face south at the appropriate time with the bottom of the chart towards the horizon and you will see the stars in the chart. At this time of year it is necessary to stay up later to get reasonable darkness but don’t worry as you will be able to see the stars in this month’s chart for some time to come.
We shall focus on the jewel of the summer sky this month- The Summer Triangle. It is not a constellation but an asterism formed by three bright stars from three separate constellations. Facing south and looking up just before your zenith you will see a very bright star. (You might want to get your deckchair out so that you can lie on your back.) This star is Vega and you cannot miss it because of its brilliance, at magnitude 0, the third brightest star visible from the northern hemisphere. It has a grouping of four fairly faint stars to its bottom left hand side and together these stars make up the constellation Lyra- The Lyre or Harp. Vega is relatively close to the Earth at a distance of only 25 light years. It lies on the edge of the Milky Way represented by the lighter shading in the chart. To the left of Lyra in the brighter region of the Milky Way you will find a giant cross and this is the constellation Cygnus- The Swan. The bright star Deneb represents the tail of the swan which is flying down the Milky Way. Deneb is a supergiant and at magnitude 1.3 it is outshone by Vega because it is much further from Earth at a distance of 1,500 light year. Cygnus is a lovely clear signpost high in the sky and the star Albireo, a beautiful double star when viewed through a telescope, represents the beak of the swan. Now from a line joining Deneb and Vega, look down about halfway to the horizon and you will find another bright star, Altair, in the constellation Aquila- The Eagle. Altair is the eighth brightest star visible from the northern hemisphere and at magnitude 0.8 it outshines Deneb because it is so close to the Earth at only 17 light years away. The three stars Vega, Deneb and Altair form what is called the Summer Triangle depicted in red on the chart. You will enjoy looking at it for the rest of the summer and it is a great help in finding your way around the night sky.
In fact we can use it straight away to find the other two constellations mentioned on the chart. Contained within the Summer Triangle near the bottom vertex is the constellation Sagitta- The Arrow. It is the third smallest constellation and is somewhat dart shaped but its brightest star is only magnitude 3.5 so a dark sky and clear conditions are required.
To the left of Sagitta and outside the Summer Triangle is another small constellation Delphinus- The Dolphin. It has a distinctive shape but again its stars are of a similar magnitude to those of Sagitta.
Something to look out for
Venus has been prominent in the evening sky just after sunset for some time now but it will be at its brightest on Sunday the 9th. Some of you may be wondering why this is the case as it was at dichotomy on the 4th June. The brightness of Venus depends on both its phase and its distance from the Earth and it so happens that although it is in more of a crescent phase it is also closer and for a short time it will be at maximum brightness before it reaches inferior conjunction and no longer visible. On Friday the 21st July there will be a close approach of the Moon and Mars visible just after sunset but don’t wait too late as they both set fairly quickly afterwards.
With an abundance of clear skies the two lunar close approaches in May did not disappoint. On the 25th a 4 day old crescent Moon and Venus gave a striking bright display close together while the next day on the 25th if you waited a little later in the evening till it was darker the Moon sat just above Mars with a nice inverted triangle to their right formed by Castor, Pollux and Venus- a delight to see.
The following chart represents the night sky at 11.00pm BST on the 8th of June and at 10.00pm BST on the 23rd June. To use the chart, face south at the appropriate time with the bottom of the chart towards the horizon and you will see the stars in the chart. At this time of year it is necessary to stay up later to get reasonable darkness.
Last month we followed the arc of the handle of The Plough down till we found the bright star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes- The Herdsman. We do the same this month and to the east of Bootes is the small but distinctive constellation, Corona Borealis- The Northern Crown. It consists of seven mostly faint stars in a horseshoe shape if you prefer that to a crown.
Further east still, about 30 degrees (three clenched fists at arm’s length) to the left of Bootes you will see four relatively faint stars in the shape of a quadrilateral. This is an asterism called The Keystone (oulined in red on the chart) and is part of the constellation Hercules- the strong man in Greek mythology. It is difficult to see any resemblance to a man but the Keystone asterism is another good signpost in the sky.
The second chart (below) shows two more zodiacal constellations and a bright star. Follow the arc of the Plough’s handle past Arcturus for about the same distance again until you see another bright star. This is Spica, at magnitude1.0, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo- The Maiden, and the 11th brightest star in the northern hemisphere. Spica is meant to represent an ear of wheat in the girl’s hand.
Below and to the left of Virgo is another small and faint zodiacal constellation Libra- The Scales. Unfortunately it has little to offer the amateur observer. Just as Virgo is the only only female sign of the zodiac so Libra is the only object as opposed to a living creature.
Something to look out for
Venus reaches its greatest eastern elongation on Sunday 4th June so a good time to observe. The angle formed by a line from the Sun through Venus to the Earth is 90 degrees so as viewed from Earth, Venus is half in sunlight half in shadow and this is referred to as ‘dichotomy’. The observation of the phases of Venus through a telescope by Galileo was one of the important discoveries which led to the heliocentric model of the solar system being accepted.
For the early risers among you, the earliest sunrise of the year is on Saturday 17th (3.38am BST) and this is followed on Wednesday 21st by the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere when the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky.
On Thursday 22nd there will be a close approach of a 4 day old Moon with the planets Venus and Mars and eight days later on Friday 30th Venus and Mars will be within about three and a half degrees of each other in your western sky after sunset.
May the clear skies continue.
Although Venus has been shining brilliantly in the evening sky during April my ‘star’ of the month was the planet Mercury. From the 1st April to the 16th April I observed Mercury with unaided viewing on six separate evenings. I made a point of observing the western horizon just after sunset from about 8.30pm until 9.15pm each evening when not completely obscured by clouds. Mercury’s angular distance west of Venus was a good guide to locating its position. Mercury has a yellowish colour all of its own and had a bit of a twinkle as it descended into the haze on the horizon. It was a delight to see. It will be back in the evening sky in August so my advice would be to make a bit of an effort and spend the time looking out for it and you will be well rewarded.
The following chart represents the night sky at 11.00pm BST on the 8th of May and at 10.00pm BST on the 23rd May. To use the chart, face south at the appropriate time with the bottom of the chart towards the horizon and you will see the stars in the chart. If you are observing earlier in the evening just turn eastwards by 15 degrees for every hour before the stated time but objects will be lower in the sky.
The constellation Ursa Major- The Great Bear, with its well known asterism, The Plough, has featured the last two months and we start with it again because it is such a good guide in the evening sky. You will find the end of the handle of the Plough directly above your head near your zenith. The stars Alioth, Mizar and Alkaid in the Plough’s handle form a natural arc so follow the direction of this arc down to the brightest star in that region. This is the star Arcturus, the second brightest star visible in the northern hemisphere with a magnitude of around -0.05 and at the relatively close distance of 36 light years. Arcturus is a red giant in the latter stages of its life and will eventually end up as a white dwarf. It is the brightest star in the constellation Bootes- The Herdsman but it is difficult to distinguish such a figure whereas the Kite asterism is easy to see and is what most people recognise as Bootes.The second brightest star in Bootes, Izar, is also shown because it is a beautiful star seen through a telescope, so take a look at it if you get the chance. It is a binary star consisting of an orange giant and a much younger blue white main sequence star.
The constellation Coma Berenices- Berenice’s hair, is also shown on the chart but it consists of relatively faint stars with little to attract the unaided observer. It said to represent the flowing locks of Queen Berenice of ancient Egypt and she apparently cut them off as a tribute to the gods after the safe return of her husband from battle.
Something to look out for
There are two lunar close approaches to keep an eye out for this month. On Tuesday 25th May a 4 day old Moon and Venus will be close in the constellation Gemini. On the following day, 26th May, there will be a close approach of the Moon and Mars in the constellation Cancer. You should be able to see these throughout the appropriate evening.