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Constellations of Spring Help

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 15, 2011

Other Circumpolar Constellations

There are other, lesser constellations that remain above the horizon at all times. These can be found on star maps. The further north you go, the more circumpolar constellations there are. If you were to go all the way to the north pole, all the constellations would be circumpolar. The stars would all seem to revolve around the zenith, completing one full circle every 23 hours and 56 minutes. Conversely, the further south you go, the fewer circumpolar constellations you will find. At the equator, there are none at all; every star in the sky spends half the sidereal day (about 11 hours and 58 minutes) above the horizon and half the sidereal day below the horizon.

Constellations Of Spring

Besides the circumpolar constellations, there are certain star groups that are characteristic of the evening sky in spring in the northern hemisphere. The season of spring is 3 months long, and even if you live in the so-called temperate zone, your latitude might vary. Thus, to get ourselves at a happy medium, let’s envision the sky in the middle of April, a couple of hours after sunset at the latitude of Lake Tahoe, Indianapolis, or Washington, D.C. (approximately 39° N).

Libra

Libra is near the east-southeastern horizon. It has the general shape of a trapezoid (Fig. 2-7) if you look up at it facing toward the east-southeast. Libra is supposed to represent the scales of justice. This constellation is faint and once was considered to be part of Scorpio, the scorpion.

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Libra

Figure 2-7. Libra, the scales of justice.

Virgo

Virgo , the virgin, is fairly high in the southeastern sky. It has an irregular shape, something like a letter Y with a hooked tail (Fig. 2-8) if you look up at it facing toward the southeast. Virgo contains the bright star Spica .

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Virgo

Figure 2-8. Virgo, the virgin, holds a staff of wheat.

Leo

Leo , the lion, is just south of the zenith. This constellation is dominated by the bright star Regulus . If you stand facing south and crane your neck until you’re looking almost straight up, you might recognize this constellation by its Sphinx-like shape (Fig. 2-9).

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Leo

Figure 2-9. Leo, the lion, resembles the Sphinx.

Cancer And Canis Minor

Cancer , the crab, stands high in the southwestern sky. If you stand facing southwest and look up at an elevation about 70 degrees, you’ll see a group of stars that resembles an upside-down Y (Fig. 2-10). In ancient mythology, Cancer was the cosmic gate through which souls descended to Earth to occupy human bodies. Next to Cancer is Canis Minor , the little dog, which contains the prominent star Procyon .

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Cancer And Canis Minor

Figure 2-10. Cancer, the crab; and Canis Minor, the little dog.

Gemini

Gemini is moderately high in the western sky. This constellation has the general shape of a tall, thin, squared-off letter U if you stand facing west and look up at it (Fig. 2-11). At the top of the U are the prominent stars Castor and Pollux , named after the twin sons of Zeus, the most powerful of the ancient Greek gods. If you use your imagination, you might see Castor facing toward the left, with Pollux right behind him. The bright stars must be their left eyes.

Stars and Constellations Constellations Of Spring Auriga

Figure 2-11. Gemini. The stars Pollux and Castor represent the twins.

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