There it goes again. The celestial boomerang is swinging down. One of the more distinctive constellations in the sky is a gentle curve of stars most commonly known as Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. This group, visible on August evenings descending in the west-southwest, was known by Australian Aborigines as Womera, translated as “The Boomerang.”
There it goes again. The celestial boomerang is swinging down.
One of the more distinctive constellations in the sky is a gentle curve of stars most commonly known as Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. This group, visible on August evenings descending in the west-southwest, was known by Australian Aborigines as Womera, translated as “The Boomerang.”
Like all constellations, they come and they go, perhaps not unlike a boomerang which is supposed to come back if you throw it correctly.
Corona Borealis, along with the star groups surrounding it, are usually considered as “spring stars,” because they dominate the sky on spring evenings. As the Earth keeps on its journey about the sun, the sky shifts with it. The summer constellations now are on show, from Sagittarius and its Teapot asterism to Cygnus the Swan with its Northern Cross shape. To the right is the portion of sky that took the springtime stage. You can still see them to some extent, but week by week, the spring stars are enveloped in the twilight glare and eventually are lost in the sunshine.
Still high in the southwest as evening stars come out, Corona Borealis finally sets in the west-northwest at around 2 a.m.
During the evening, the coming attraction of the fall constellations are making their appearance in the east. If you stay up long enough in summer, after midnight, you will see the fall stars in their glory, stretching across the southern sky and overhead. Be sure to look east during the wee hours, for an early look at winter’s stellar beauty.
The calendar may still say it is August, but if you go out at about 4 a.m., you can see the majestic winter constellation Orion, low in the east. Early risers know the pre-dawn sky best. Ask any dairy farmer or anyone who is used to getting up before the crack of dawn.
Night owls don’t like to hear about it, but the early morning sky can be the most refreshing. It is at this amazing time, even before the song birds begin their morning chorus, that you can imagine yourself having a practically private meeting with the stars above. Hardly anyone else is looking. The stars seem so fresh and bright. It is not all in your imagination. At these hours, the air pollution has settled down the most and the sky is at its darkest because more of our infernal neon lights tend to be off. Traffic is at a minimum. The neighborhood is as quiet as it ever gets (at least we HOPE). Crickets, owls (the birds, not people who stay up late), maybe even a coyote join together in their nocturnal symphony.
Dress a little extra warm and gaze at the side of the sky after midnight most people only can dream about- literally- because they are fast asleep.
Back to the evening sky: The Northern Crown - or if you prefer, the Boomerang - is marked by seven stars. The brightest “gem” in the crown is the star Gemma, magnitude +2.2. Gemma is considered a member of the loose association of stars traveling together, including most of the Big Dipper stars, known as the Ursa Major Moving Group. The stars have similar velocities and are theorized to have a common origin.
As we have seen, different cultures imagine star patterns differently. Greek astronomer Ptolmey in the second century recorded the Northern Crown. As was noted, the Aborigines saw a Boomerang. The Chinese saw a “Heavenly Market Enclosure.” The Cheyenne Nation pictured a “Camp Circle.” The Welsh envisioned “The Castle of the Silver Circle.”
Also be sure to see the bright orange star Arcturus, shining lower in the west in the evening sky.
Last-quarter moon is Aug. 21.
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Keep looking up!