Hunt for Draco in dark night sky

2013-08-29T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T11:49:30Z Hunt for Draco in dark night skyBy Tim Hunter Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The evening sky is free of the moon for the next week, making it a good time to look for Draco the Dragon.

Draco may be fearsome in myth, but it is a rather dim circumpolar constellation. Draco is so far north that it never completely sets when it circles around the North Celestial Pole as the Earth rotates on its axis.

The North Celestial Pole and South Celestial Pole are merely the projections of the Earth’s axis into the sky above the Earth’s poles. Polaris happens to lie within a degree of the North Celestial Pole thereby getting its fame. Polaris is a bright, easily found star that is always in the same place no matter the time of night. From our perspective, the sky seems to rotate around Polaris every day.

Around 8:30 pm look directly north and find Polaris. Draco will be higher above the horizon than Polaris and sitting just west of the meridian — that imaginary line running north to south dividing the sky into equal eastern and western halves.

The head of Draco is the most southern part of the constellation. It looks like a small squashed rectangle not too far north of the bright star Vega in Lyra the Lyre. The body of Draco is a long string of stars that runs north toward Polaris and then curves west around the Little Dipper.

Draco is more like a tame celestial snake than a fearsome dragon.

Contact Tim Hunter at skyspy@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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