It is finally March. Chicago is slowly thawing out from a bitterly cold winter, and it is a good time to take a look again at the spectacular bright stars that are typically associated with the winter sky. An hour after sunset (around 8:00 pm Central Daylight Time), look to the south.
As the diagram shows, you will see the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, the Dog Star, close to the horizon. Above and to the right of Sirius is the familiar constellation Orion with red Betelgeuse in the upper left and blue Rigel in the lower right. Above and to the left of Sirius is Procyon, the Little Dog Star. To the right of Orion, you will see red Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus the Bull.
Shining above all of these is a visitor to this part of the sky, the planet Jupiter. The largest planet in the Solar System, it outshines all these stars. You can’t miss it. I say it is a visitor to this part of the sky because it is slowly, almost imperceptibly, moving west in relation to the stars–a motion obvious only after months of observation.
Look for these bright southern lights any time in the next ten days or so.
Near the upper right corner of this diagram is a famous cluster of stars, the Pleiades. You can probably see four or five stars with your naked eye, but if you have binoculars, you can see many more. In Japanese, this cluster is known as Subaru, and the car company’s logo is based on the pattern of stars.