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Volume XVII, Issue 11 - March 12 - March 18, 2009
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Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll

A Quick Look to Spring’s Stars

Daylight is coming on fast

If these dark mornings have you waking groggy, take heart. Yes, we have lost an hour in the morning to daylight saving time, with sunrise now around 7:15. But we’re gaining more than a minute and a half of morning sunlight each day and a little more than a minute of the bright stuff at day’s end. In what’s called the quickening — the couple weeks immediately before and after vernal equinox — our days grow longer at their fastest clip of the year.

In the meantime, use this extra hour of darkness before dawn to reacquaint yourself with the constellations of spring and summer.

Leo the lion bounds above the western horizon with its primary star Regulus about 10 degrees high at 6am. Don’t confuse this twinkling star with Saturn, shining equally bright in the west but traveling 20 degrees behind the lion.

The true harbinger of spring, Virgo, stands high in the southwest before daybreak. The morning of Friday the 13th, the waning gibbous moon shines less than five degrees below the blue-white first-magnitude star Spica.

Libra, the celestial scales of balance and justice, shines in the south before dawn, with the moon paying a visit Sunday. While its stars glow dimly at magnitude 2 or less, it contains the only green star visible to the naked eye, Zubeneschamali.

The red supergiant Antares glares low in the south as morning approaches. Meaning rival of Ares, called Mars by the Romans, Antares marks the heart of Scorpius, one of the oldest constellations. In Greek mythology, the scorpion was the nemesis of Orion, punctuated by its own red supergiant, Betelgeuse. As the hunter disappears beneath the horizon each spring, the scorpion crawls into view.

Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2009 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.

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