Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science
You can locate the Big Dipper in the northeast in mid- to late evening around now. The Big Dipper is part of the constellation Ursa Major, the Greater Bear.
In addition, if you can find the Big Dipper, you can find two Hunting Dogs seen by the ancient stargazers to be nipping at the Bear’s heels. The Hunting Dogs are a separate constellation: tiny Canes Venatici. You will need a dark sky to see these two little stars snuggled in the arc of the Big Dipper. Originally, they were called Asterion and Chara. But the eastern star is now called Cor Coroli, or Heart of Charles, named for the patron king of the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius, who devised this constellation in 1690.
The most famous object in this region of the sky is M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. It is beautiful when seen through telescopes and dramatic in photographs. Unfortunately, this galaxy is difficult or impossible to glimpse with binoculars.
But there’s another faint object at the extreme edge of Canes Venatici that your binoculars should pick up over the coming weeks, when the nearly full moon has left the evening sky. This object is M3, a globular star cluster located some 48,000 light-years away. Binoculars see it as a dim blur of light, best seen with averted vision. Notice that it lays almost midway between the bright star Arcturus and Cor Coroli.
Not sure how to find Arcturus? Remember to “follow the arc” of the Big Dipper’s handle, in order to locate this star.
Written by Deborah Byrd