Bruce Bookout has been some days in preperation for this week's episode of Looking Up...
Our springtime brings to view a northern-sky asterism many amateur astronomers call the Kite. An asterism is a recognizable pattern of stars that’s not one of the “official” 88 constellations. The Big Dipper is an asterism. So is the Northern Cross. The Kite is actually the constellation Boötes, the Herdsman.
A good stargazing trick in finding this bright constellation is to start off at the Big Dipper, which is another asterism, now high in the northeastern sky in the late evenings. Appearing to hang upside down, the handle of the Big Dipper offers up three stars that point in an imaginary arc down toward the horizon. Follow the arc until you hit a bright red star. You have found Arcturus, the brightest star of Boötes.
From Boötes’ brightest star you can now drop south to the star Spica in the constellation Virgo, which lies very close to the path of the sun and planets across the night sky. This road map asterism is a simple method to find the ecliptic. Remember to "arc to Arcturus and spike to Spica”. While most asterisms are contained to one location, this journey from north to south is to the benefit of Mr. Kite.
If you’d like to take a closer look at the Boötes constellation, or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties.