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Monday, June 24, 2024

Earthsky Tonight—June 3: See Draco the Dragon and a former pole star

Courtesy of EarthSky  
A Clear Voice for Science

If you have a dark sky, you will be able to pick the constellationDraco the Dragon winding around the North Star, Polaris.

First, find the Big Dipper high in the north on June evenings. The two outer stars in the Dipper’s bowl point to Polaris, the North Star, which marks the end of the Little Dipper’s handle.

The Little Dipper is relatively faint. If you can find both Dippers, then your sky is probably pretty dark. In addition, you will need a dark sky to see Draco. You will have to let your eyes and imagination drift a bit to see the entire winding shape of the Dragon in the northern heavens.

However, if you can find both Dippers, you will easily pick out another noteworthy star in Draco. This star is Thuban, which I always find by remembering it is between the Big and Little Dippers. Thuban is famous for having served as a north star around 3000 B.C. This date coincides with the beginning of the building of the pyramids in Egypt. It is said that the descending passage of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Gizeh was built to point directly at Thuban. Therefore, our ancestors knew and celebrated this star.

The stars Eltanin and Rastaban lie in the head of Draco. Look ahead to tomorrow’s chart to learn to identify them near the brilliant blue-white star Vega.


Little Dipper: Clipped wings of Draco the Dragon

Written by Deborah Byrd

Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL

CHANDRA Photo Album

U.S. Naval Observator Astronomical Information center

StarDate Online

Sky and Telescope

National Geographic

Space Com

Amazing Space

The York County Astronomical Society

Scope City

James S McDonnell Planetarium

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