We have some really good night sky viewing conditions tonight, folks. Temperatures are great and skies are clear. Plus, the moon doesn’t rise until after midnight, making for some dark skies.
The night sky map below is only set to show you the brightest objects, and it is oriented as if you were facing south. I set it to 9:00 p.m. I think the main things to look for are Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter is rather easy to spot, being about two to three times brighter than the stars surrounding it. Look to the left of Jupiter and you’ll see Saturn. I’d say it’s a about two or three hand-lengths away. Jupiter is usually to your immediate left in the sky.
Notice the line that I had drawn that connects Jupiter and Saturn. That is called the Plane of the Ecliptic. For some reason, this was one of the things that really stuck with me after taking astronomy in college. That is the path the sun takes across the sky. All planets, as well as our moon, are always near that plane. It’s a side-effect of how our solar system was formed. That’s why you’ll never see a planet in the northern sky. It’s impossible.
So, go out and look up! There’s all kinds of constellations to look for. If you want to impress your significant other just take them outside and point out constellations. Sometimes it just takes pointing out two or three to make an impression. 😉
I’ll help ya out a bit right quick. You see Aquila in the upper left? That is the eagle that held Thor’s thunderbolts. Look at it in the night sky and you’ll “see” the wings spread out.
You see Scorpius at the bottom center? According to Greek mythology, Orion boasted to the goddess Artemis and here mother, Leto, that he would kill all the animals on the earth. Artemis and her mother sent a scorpion to kill Orion, which is ultimately what happened. Zeus was so impressed with the fight that he placed a scorpion in the sky (Scorpius) to serve as a reminder that people should always be mindful of their pride and do their best to keep it in check.
Then there’s Hydra in the lower right of the image. Hydra is actually a translation from the word “serpent.” A crow tried to serve Apollo a glass of water but he placed a snake in the cup. Apollo saw through the scheme and threw the snake (hydra), the cup, and the crow into the skies, giving us their constellations. It’s kinda tricky but you may be able to make out the cup and crow along the snakes body if you use your imagination.
That’s the gist of what I can remember for now but that should get you started. haha Keep in mind the constellation positions change through the seasons and we’ll even see some new ones appear.
If you see the very faint “stars” moving across the very, very high skies those are satellites orbiting the earth.
Enjoy that night sky!