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Disappearing Stars

StarDate: 
May 23, 2016

There’s a time and place for everything — especially for the stars. Each star has its own season — a time of year when it’s especially well placed for observing. And for several of the brightest stars in the night sky, that season is coming to an end. The stars are in the west and northwest as night falls, and dropping closer to the horizon by the day.

As the last blush of twilight fades away, look almost due west for Procyon, the little dog star. It’s not all that high in the sky, but if you have a clear horizon, it’ll stand out.

Procyon is best known as a winter star. As the season begins, it leads the way for the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. By now, though, Sirius has vanished from the evening sky. But because of Procyon’s more northerly position in the sky, it hangs on for a bit longer.

Two other bright stars stand to the upper right of Procyon: Pollux and Castor, the twins of Gemini. They stand side by side, parallel to the horizon, like a pair of eyes staring back at you. Pollux is the brighter of the two.

And well to the lower right of the twins, look for an even brighter marker of winter skies: golden Capella, the leading light of the charioteer.

These and all the other stars rise and set about four minutes earlier each day. So these bright stars are running out of time. They’ll fade from view in the evening twilight within weeks, bringing their season to an end — until next year.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield

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