Andrew Kirk of Bishop, California, sent along this stunning photograph of lenticular clouds and iridescence (colored rings) taken on Tuesday the 28th. The clouds were very short-lived, evaporating in less than a minute.
Now that the snow’s gone, we don’t see quite as many animal tracks as we used to around my woods. Snow makes tracking easy but spring mud will work too. The most common prints in our region are made by white-tail deer, rabbits and small rodents. Can’t forget dogs and humans too.
Find the Three Leaps of the Gazelle between the Big Dipper and Leo the Lion. This map shows the sky tonight around 10 o’clock as you look high in south-southwest. If you lay on your back, you’ll find the view more comfortable. Created with Stellarium.
Although there are many animals depicted in the constellations, the most notable being Ursa Major, the Great Bear, there’s only one semi-official group of animal tracks up there. It’s a very cool pattern called the Leaps of the Gazelle, handed down to us from ancient Arabia. While not one of the 88 constellations, it’s notable because it really looks like prints a hoofed animal might make while gracefully leaping across the sky. According to the story, a gazelle was drinking water from a pond when it was surprised by Leo the Lion’s tail. The animal quickly jumped up and sprang to safety, leaving three neat prints in the sky.
To be truthful, the Leaps officially belong to the Great Bear; they represent the claws at the end of three of this legs. That works too but seeing them as animal tracks puts a little bounce into the sky.
The Leaps consist of three evenly-spaced pairs of modestly bright stars spread across 30 degrees or three outstretched fists of sky above the constellation of Leo. Take a look the next clear night and I think you’ll enjoy the symmetry of the pattern. It looks a lot like the more familiar deer tracks.
The Leaps are also part of the constellation of Ursa Major. Image from Urania’s Mirror, published 1825. (Gazelle photo above from photos.com)