(Looking east at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning March 4 — created with Stellarium)
I heard the sound of spring under my feet this weekend. While hiking
down Amity Creek, water rolling along under the ice broadcast a
muffled but very musical gurgling. The flow of water, however hidden,
recalls warmer times.
The sky is like that too. When you go out tonight, the constellations
of winter dominate the early evening. Orion the Hunter stands high in
the south accompanied by winter stalwarts Gemini and Taurus. But stay
up after midnight, and Orion has fallen off in the west to be replaced
by Leo the Lion. Stay out even later and you’ll see the summer Milky
Way grace the east before dawn. These "hidden" seasonal stars are
available to anyone willing to gaze skyward in the wee hours when most
of us are snoring under our blankets.
The ceaseless west to east rotation of the Earth — 750 mph at our
latitude — makes the stars appear to rise in the east, crest in the
south and then set in the west. So if you’re heartsick for warmer
times, wake up a little earlier than normal tomorrow morning for a sneak peak at
what’s to come. While you’re out, try to spot the thin crescent moon between 6-6:30 very low in the southeastern sky. Jupiter is the bright "star" well to its upper right.
Tomorrow we’ll look at why certain constellations are only visible during a