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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sky Tonight—May 3, Drive a spike to the star Spica in May

Courtesy of EarthSky
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phase04 New moon Sky Tonight—May 3, Drive a spike to the star Spica in Maymay03 Sky Tonight—May 3, Drive a spike to the star Spica in MayYesterday we talked about learning to ‘follow the arc’ to the star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes. You just follow the curve in the Big Dipper’s handle until you see this orange star.

Tonight, let the Big Dipper introduce you to another bright star. This star is Spica in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. You can ‘follow the arc’ to Arcturus AND ‘drive a spike’ or ‘speed on’ to Spica.

Today’s chart shows a wide sweep of sky, from northeast to southeast in late evening. First follow the curve made by these stars in the Big Dipper’s handle to the star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes: ‘follow the arc to Arcturus.’

Now extend the curve in the handle into the southeastern sky: ‘drive a spike to Spica,’ or ‘speed on to Spica.’

Spica in the constellation Virgo looks like one star, but this single point of light is really a multiple star system – with at least three member stars – located an estimated distance of 262 light-years away. Spica’s constellation, Virgo, is large and rambling and difficult to see. However, you can look for a little squarish figure to the right of Spica. This is the constellation Corvus the Crow, which we show on yesterday’s sky chart.

By Deborah Byrd

 


Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL

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StarDate Online

Sky and Telescope

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The York County Astronomical Society

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