CAYA Sprouts New Moon Stargazing Guide - May 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 and enjoy the early summer stars!

Looking high overhead (perhaps facing north), find the Big Dipper/Great Bear. Follow the arc of the Big Dipper's ladle, curving away from the ladle's end by about two handle-lengths, to the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, Arcturus. After "arcing to Arcturus, spike down to Spica." (See April's post for more details).

Again you'll notice Jupiter shining bright near Spica (in Virgo), only a tiny bit further from Spica than it was a month ago - since Jupiter is further from the Sun than the Earth and therefore makes a ponderously slow, large circuit around our home star, it appears to move only slightly from month to month. This is quite unlike our sister planet Venus, which you may remember from earlier in the year moving dramatically from evening to morning 'star' in a matter of weeks!

Next find Regulus (in Leo) to the west of Spica and Jupiter, using Spica and the Big Dipper's pointer stars as your guides (see April's post for details). Sitting at the heart of the lion, Regulus is bright like Spica… use the two of them to find this next challenge!

The water snake (or sea serpent) Hydra is composed of only dim stars, and is the longest of the constellations. It spans 100 degrees, more than half of the night sky's width! (If you put one arm out to your side and the other straight in front of you, the separation between them is 90 degrees, and you can use that to approximately mark out the length of this monstrously large constellation.) Look about halfway down to the horizon from Regulus for the brightest star in Hydra. The full length of Hydra extends toward the western horizon, to a few stars that are its head(s?), and way, way, across the sky to the southern horizon, wiggling its way along below Leo and Virgo.

Since Hydra's stars are so dim, it can be nearly impossible to find all the 'right' ones - but that's part of the fun of this mysterious serpent. You can feel free to find a new collection of dim stars every time you look for Hydra, as she slithers and shifts around in the sky below Spica and Regulus. That's what I do!

The following star chart can help you find Hydra (at least approximately, the rest is up to you!): 

May 2017 Star Chart

 And this whimsical version of Hydra and several neighboring constellations might give you a more slithery sense of what to look for:

Whimsical Hydra

 Make sure to line up the direction printed on the edge of the star chart 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 U.S., or a similar latitude.

Blessed be your stargazing!

If you enjoyed this and would like to connect more deeply 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!