Sky Spy: Hydra the Snake spans southern sky

2013-04-04T00:00:00Z 2014-07-01T16:48:51Z Sky Spy: Hydra the Snake spans southern skyTim Hunter Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Now is a good time to see one of the largest constellations in the sky and one of the few constellations that actually looks like what it is supposed to represent - Hydra the Water Snake.

It sounds like a constellation too good to be true, and it is, because Hydra is relatively faint.

It takes a bit of effort to find Hydra and to appreciate its full extent. This time of year, the best time to see Hydra extending across the sky is from 8 to 11 p.m.

Look toward the south around 8:30 p.m. Hydra's head, the leading part of the constellation, will be 65 degrees above the southern horizon. Its head is a small, misshapen pentagon of five stars.

The head of Hydra is halfway between Procyon in Canis Minor the Lesser Dog and Regulus in Leo the Lion, and just below the faint constellation of Cancer the Crab.

The long body of Hydra stretches from its head toward the east, running considerably below the large constellations of Leo and Virgo the Virgin and just below the small, faint constellations of Sextans the Sextant, Crater the Cup and Corvus the Crow.

Hydra will be fully spread out in the southern sky by 11 p.m. when its head will be in the southwest, and its faint tail will be in the southeast.

Hydra's brightest star is Alphard, the fourth star to the east of Hydra's head. Alphard has a distinct, pale-orange color and a luminosity 400 times the sun's.

Alphard would be more spectacular if it were not 175 light-years from the Earth.

Moon Watch

The moon is a waning (getting smaller) crescent. New moon is Wednesday. The moon does not rise until 3 a.m. Friday morning. The evening sky will be dark for a week until after new moon.

Learn more

Friday's meeting of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association will start with a lecture by Mary Turner on what you can see in the spring sky.

Next, Burley Packwood will speak on "Astrophotography: Past, Present and Future."

Packwood is a retired radiologist who belongs to the association and to the Sonora Astronomical Society.

His talk will include a brief history of astroimaging and its future. He will also compare images taken by amateur astrophotographers using modestly priced equipment with images taken from professional ground-based observatories and orbiting observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

The free event starts at 6:30 p.m. in Room N210 of the Steward Observatory, 933 N. Cherry Ave.

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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