Sky at a Glance 2021 March 13 – 20

Photo showing Orion the Hunter and the faint constellation Monoceros the Unicorn.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2021 March 13 – 20 ~by Curt Nason

As darkness settles in this Wednesday evening, and if you are able, go out and raise a glass to the southwest and toast the constellation Orion, the mighty sky-hunter who on this day signs his name as O’Ryan. And if you had dusted off an Irish Rovers record during the day, perhaps you will be hunting the sky for some animals in their signature tune written by Shel Silverstein, “The Unicorn.”

You will have no luck finding green alligators, chimpanzees, rats and elephants. There is no humpy-back camel, either, but there is the large and faint Camelopardalis in the seemingly blank sky high in the northwest between Polaris and bright Capella. The name means camel-leopard or giraffe. Cygnus the Swan is waving part of one wing above the northern horizon, hoping to be picked for a long necked goose. If you check Cygnus out in the morning there is a faint constellation below its head of called Vulpecula the Fox. Nineteenth century star maps depicted the fox with a goose in its mouth and the constellation was labelled as Vulpecula and Anser.

Cats? Well, there is Leo the Lion in the east, tiny Leo Minor between it and Ursa Major, and elusive Lynx above Ursa Major. Hardly the loveliest of all, Monoceros the Unicorn is to the left of Orion, sandwiched between his bright dog stars Sirius and Procyon. Like Camelopardalis, Lynx and Leo Minor, Monoceros was imaginatively created within the past four centuries to fill in blank areas and one requires a dark sky to trace its shape. A drop of the pure might help your imagination but not your eyesight.

This Week in the Solar System

The Moon is new this Saturday and it will be seen near Mars next Friday. At midweek Jupiter rises 75 minutes before sunrise and half an hour after Saturn. Mercury rises 50 minutes before the Sun this weekend and by next weekend that time shortens to 40 minutes. Mars moves a little closer to its near-twin Aldebaran over the week, and on Wednesday perhaps their reddish cousin Betelgeuse will turn a shade of green for O’Ryan’s Day.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm and view archived shows.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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