After what has been a fun time covering rockets, space history, and planets, it is time to return to what we can see for ourselves. The spring sky is one of the more beautiful configurations of the heavens above. The large powerful constellations such as Orion and Cassiopeia still shine in west and new constellations such as Boötes can be found after sunset in the fresh new eastern sky. This particular spring is made all the better by the presence of Saturn to the southeast along with the upcoming new moon next Monday.
As it is fairly easy to spot given its location over Denver, Boötes will serve as a point of interest over the next few months. Depending upon your source of mythology, Boötes has a variety of forms, from that of the first ploughman who uses his team of oxen to keep the heavens in constant motion to that of a winemaker who upon learning the secret of making wine from Bacchus made a wine so powerful that all that drank his mixture believed they were poisoned due to the strength of their hangovers. No matter the myth, Boötes is always memorialized in the sky for doing something great or doing something a bit too great.
Boötes is most easily recognized by its alpha star, Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern hemisphere and one of the few that has a noticeable orange hue to the naked eye. The star itself is a giant star significantly larger than our own sun, though it is likely that later in the future, our own sun will be much similar in size and output. There are also a few claims that the star may have a companion, whether it be a large planet or small binary star, though these are hardly confirmed.
Boötes should be directly over the Eastern sky between around 60 to 70 degrees up and should rise to be nearly overhead by around 1:00 AM and is surrounded to the east by Hercules, south by Spica, and north by the long draping Draco.
The spring sky is a great opportunity to learn some new constellations since positions can be determined off of the familiars ones that are still around until early summer. Also as the night moves on and you find yourself still up studying for upcoming finals, grand constellations such as Cygnus will be rising, giving a brief taste of the magnificent summer skies.
May the stars shine brightly in your skies!