CAYA Sprouts New Moon Stargazing Guide - April 2017
by Shell Selvans
Blessed New Moon! In the coming week or two, we welcome you to go outside with your family at 9:00PM or later and glory in the stars!
Facing north, find the Big Dipper, part of the Great Bear, and follow the two pointer stars at the end of the ladle, in the direction in which you would pour cosmic soup out of it, to Polaris (the North Star) and the Little Bear (see February's post for details).
The Big Dipper is useful for finding many stars and constellations. Another bright star that the Big Dipper points to is Arcturus: follow the arc of the handle of the ladle, curving away from the ladle's end by about two handle-lengths, to the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. Arcturus means "Guardian of the Bears", and circles around the North Star with the Great Bear, keeping an eye on the Bears during their nightly excursions.
Keep following the path from the handle of the Big Dipper past Arcturus, and go a similar distance to another bright star, Spica. You can remember this by thinking of "arcing to Arcturus, and spiking down to Spica."
You will notice two bright 'stars' near each other at this place in the sky. One is always in its place (Spica) as the tip of the sheaf of grain that the Earth Mother (also known as Virgo) holds in her hand. The other is a planet ('wanderer,' as the word means), Jupiter, the brightest planet in our skies after Venus, and the largest planet in our solar system! Keep an eye on these two for two or more weeks and you'll get a sense of how Jupiter wanders, slow and stately, through the stars!
Another stately aspect of the night sky at this point is the 'little king' Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, the lion. Look for a bright star west of Spica… if you get to Procyon, of the Little Dog (see March's post for details of how to find Procyon), you've gone too far.
Another way to find Leo is to use the two pointer stars at the front of the Big Dipper, but follow them the opposite direction from the North Star, high overhead, a similar distance as the North Star is from the Big Dipper. The head and chest of Leo is the easiest to imagine, by connecting the stars in a backwards-question-mark shape, with Regulus at the heart of Leo, and the other stars curving around to make the mane of the lion, facing west.
The following star chart can help you find Arcturus, Spica (and Virgo), Jupiter, and Regulus (and Leo):
Make sure to line the direction printed on the edge of it up with the direction you're facing! After 11:00PM, the stars will have rotated a bit from where they're shown. Also, you might want to find your own chart if you are on our Mother Earth somewhere other than the contiguous 48 states of the United States, or a similar latitude.
Blessed be your stargazing!
If you enjoyed this and would like to connect deeper with the stars, our magical community and the children of the world, please join CAYA Sprouts in our monthly Children of Promise New Moon working!