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Lunar Corral

May 7, 2011

A phalanx of bright stars fences in the crescent Moon tonight like pickets in a celestial fence. The whole display is in the west at nightfall and sets by the wee hours of the morning.

Orange Betelgeuse stands almost directly below the Moon as night rinses away the color of twilight. It's one of the leading lights of Orion, the hunter, which is disappearing from the evening sky.

Well to the left of Betelgeuse is Sirius, the Dog Star, which is the brightest star in all the night sky. Because it's so low in the sky it twinkles fiercely, flashing from red to green to pure white.

Above Sirius and to the left of the Moon is Procyon, the little dog star. The "little" in the title comes from its constellation, Canis Minor -- the little dog.

Directly above the Moon are the twins of Gemini, Pollux and Castor. Pollux is the brighter of the two and shines orange to Castor's white.

And completing the fence is Capella, the brightest star of Auriga, the charioteer, which is well to the right of the Moon.

Most of the stars along this picket line are known as winter stars because they're in view all night during the long nights of the winter season. Now, though, the Sun is catching up to them as it continues its trek across the sky. They'll soon disappear in the Sun's glare -- only to reemerge a few days or weeks later in the morning sky. They'll reclaim their place of glory in a few months -- commanding the cold skies of winter.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011


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