Oh Vega, seeing you tonight reminded me of a side lined idea to write about wonders of the night sky. Calling it “baby steps”, and seen as my way of sparking others to gaze at the sky – I remain hopeful a cosmic signpost or two will cast eyes upwards. I can’t force cosmic awe or expect my enthusiasm to resonate with anyone not inclined. Daunting probability of success never stopped me before – if a single person reads this and takes it upon themselves to locate Vega, that’s good enough for me.
Vega is my favorite summer star. 5th brightest in the Northern Hemisphere – dependable, comforting and easy to find. In early evening look to the northeast, Vega jumps at you, unhindered by four faint companions making up constellation Lyra. More noticeable are Deneb and Altair who join Vega to make the “summer triangle”.
Greek mythology spoke of constellation Lyra as the harp played by Orpheus. When Orpheus played, no mortal or God could look away. Vega is often called the Harp Star.
Vega might not be the brightest star – a distinction held by Sirius – but it’s one of the easiest to spot. Finding Sirius requires a little orientation – setting eyes on Orion’s belt and drawing a downward left line. Vega needs no introduction, it simply pops out of the sky, politely reigning over the horizon.
Nothing would make me happier than knowing someone somewhere noticed Vega and thought “I know you – your name is Vega, pleased to make your acquaintance”.
Regulus is considered the 20th or so brightest star visible from Earth. A measly 77 light years away and part of the constellation Leo – Regulas couldn’t be easier to find. With apologies for the late notice – residents of New York State, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia ( assuming clear skies prevail ) bundle up around 2 AM for the Regulus occultation.
Shortly before 2 Am head out and find the moon – extend your arms and voila! – Regulus is the brightest object above your right hand, roughly the same height as the moon and certainly the brightest object in that corner of the sky.
Looking southwest (90° to the right of the Moon) around 2 a.m. EDT on the morning of March 20th. Regulus will appear roughly as high as the Moon. It’s the brightest star in the area; you don’t need to know, or see, the constellations! Click image for larger view.
IOTA / Stellarium / Sky & Telescope
At 2:06 AM EDT asteroid 163 Erigone will pass Regulus – completely blacking it out for 14 seconds. An unprecedented asteroid occultation, never witnessed let alone observed by the naked eye in North America.
If nothing else, remember to look up the next clear night to familiarize yourself with a shining star. Dazzle your friends when pointing out constellation Leo, astound them when identifying Regulus , and tuck that nugget of star power under your belt.