Sky Spy: Goodbye Castor, Pollux; hello Ophiuchus

2013-06-27T00:00:00Z 2014-07-01T16:44:30Z Sky Spy: Goodbye Castor, Pollux; hello OphiuchusTim Hunter Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Moon Watch

The moon is in a waning (growing smaller) gibbous (more than half lit) phase becoming last quarter on Saturday. Sunset is at 7:34 tonight.

As the sky darkens after sunset, Venus becomes visible low in the western sky. I call Venus ever brilliant; because it is so bright, it remains easily visible even low in the sky.

Around 8 p.m., the sky should be dark enough for Venus to point you to the Twins, Castor and Pollux, which are saying goodbye to us for a while.

Find Venus and then look to the right (north) to see Pollux and Castor, in that order, forming a nearly straight line with Venus. You will need a clear western horizon, and binoculars will help you find Castor and Pollux.

Twilight ends at 9:15 p.m., and the moon does not rise until 10:53 tonight. Between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m. is a good time to enjoy the southern sky free from moonlight.

By 10, Scorpius the Scorpion will be well above southern horizon. If you look above and to the east of Scorpius, you will find the large constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Holder. Ophiuchus is a constellation that does not get much press, perhaps because it has a hard name to spell and pronounce. While the stars in Ophiuchus are bright enough to be seen in light polluted skies, there are no bright spectacular stars in the constellation.

Ophiuchus holds a snake Serpens in his hands with the snake's head, Serpens Caput, to the west of Ophiuchus and its tail, Serpens Cauda, to the east of Ophiuchus.

Ophiuchus deserves our respect and attention. A part of the Milky Way touches on Ophiuchus, and there are many wonderful star clusters and nebulae spread throughout Ophiuchus, a delightful region.

Contact Tim Hunter at skyspy@azstarnet.com

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