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Water Carriers

August 8, 2013

A couple of implements for holding water bracket the midnight sky at this time of year. The teapot of Sagittarius is low in the south, with the Big Dipper about the same height in the north-northwest.

Sagittarius represents a centaur holding a bow and arrow. But modern eyes are more likely to see the constellation as a teapot, with the handle on the left and the spout on the right. And under dark skies, you can also see some “steam” rising from the spout — the hazy light of the Milky Way.

Sagittarius is visible from about early March, when it first appears in the morning sky, until about mid-November, when it disappears from the evening sky. Yet it’s generally associated with the warm nights of summer because that’s when it appears highest in the sky during the evening — prime time for most skywatchers.

The Big Dipper, on the other hand, isn’t generally associated with any season, because it’s visible every night of the year.

The Dipper is close to the north celestial pole, so as Earth rotates on it axis, some or all of the Dipper’s stars always remain in sight as viewed from most of the United States. They’re lowest in the evening sky during autumn, but rotate up into good view later in the night. The rest of the year, the Dipper is well up in the sky during the evening hours.

In August, it drops down the northwest during the evening, with the bowl a little below the handle — dipping into the starry bounty of the evening sky.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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