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Last Week's Stargazing Tips

March 18: Moon and Companions

The vanishingly thin crescent Moon has a couple of companions after sunset this evening, the planets Venus and Mercury. Venus is the “evening star,” to the right of the Moon. Much-fainter Mercury is about the same distance to the upper right of Venus.

March 17: Owl Nebula

The Owl Nebula stares out from the Big Dipper. It is a set of concentric bubbles of gas blown into space by a dying star. It’s round, and seen through a telescope or in photographs, it has two dark patches that look like an owl’s eyes.

March 16: New Moon

The Moon will be “new” early tomorrow as it crosses the line between Earth and the Sun. It is lost from sight in the Sun’s glare, but should return to view on Sunday, as a thin crescent quite low in the west at sunset.

March 15: Arcturus

One of spring’s most prominent stars is Arcturus, in the constellation Bootes, the herdsman. This yellow-orange star rises in the middle of the evening and soars high across the sky during the night.

March 14: Cancer

Cancer, the crab, is well up in the east at nightfall. Although it is part of the zodiac, its stars are dim. The brightest, Beta Cancri, is so faint you may not be able to see it from a suburb, let alone a bright city.

March 13: Eternal Stars

As Earth turns, most stars rise in the east and set in the west. But a few remain visible all night, every night. These stars are called circumpolar, meaning “around the pole.” In ancient Egypt they were known as the eternal stars.

March 12: Leo

The constellation Leo is in the east as night falls, with Regulus, its leading light, about a third of the way up the sky. Denebola, the lion’s tail, is far to the lower left of Regulus.