Hey Space Placers!
In between the unending line of winter storms (another one this Sunday-Monday) and bone chilling polar vortexes we in Virginia have had this hard winter, I had a chance to see Mars last night - 2/28/14 - with my unaided eye.
Mars is fast approaching for its closest approach to Earth which will be in mid-April (I will have more details in a future blog). The Red Planet is easy to see in the south eastern sky after 11 p.m. as it is the brightest "star" in that region of the sky.
What caught my attention last night however was that Mars, a reddish-orange orb in the sky has a similarly colored star, Arcturus, to its far left. Arcturus is known as the "star of spring" as when it becomes visible in the night sky it means spring is not far behind.
Arcturus is the second brightest star in Northern Hemisphere skies, second only to brilliant Sirius which dominates the southern skyline in winter. Overall it is the 4th brightest star in the night sky and is located in the constellation of Bootes.
Try going out at about 11 p.m in the next few nights before the Moon begins to light the sky up and see brightening Mars in the southeast and bright Arcturus on the east. Look to the southwest and you will see the retreating stars and constellations of winter, and that to me is a good thing after this year's winter!
Sky Guy in Another Winter Storm is a'comin' To VA