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Sky Tonight—April 5, Drive a spike to Spica

Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science

Visit EarthSky at
www.EarthSky.org [1]

[2] [3]Notice that we’ve shrunk the scale of today’s chart, in order to take in a wide sweep of sky from northeast to southeast. Tonight, let the Big Dipper introduce you to another bright star.

This star is Spica in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. If you’re outside this evening, you can follow the arc to Arcturus and drive a spike to Spica.

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 [4]. Now extend the curve in the handle into the southeastern sky: drive a spike to Spica.

Spica [5] 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 so large and rambling and difficult to see that I haven’t marked it. But you can look for a little squarish figure to the upper right of Spica on today’s chart. This is the constellation Corvus the Crow.

Spica: Speed on [5]

As Earth travels around the sun, all the stars rise four minutes earlier each day. Thus these stars will be rising earlier – and appearing higher in the sky earlier in the evening – in the coming months.

Big and Little Dippers in Ursa Major [6]

Give me five minutes, I’ll give you Saturn in 2011 [7]

By EarthSky [8]


Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA/JPL [9]

EarthSky: Space [10]

CHANDRA Photo Album [11]

U.S. Naval Observator Astronomical Information cente [12]r

Universe Today [13]

StarDate Online [14]

Sky and Telescope [15]

National Geographic [16]

Space Com [17]

Simostronomy Blog [18]

Amazing Space [19]

The York County Astronomical Society [20]

Scope City [21]

James S McDonnell Planetarium [22]