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For the month of March

Winter Sky Map © Wil Tirion

March Constellations

At nine pm on March evenings, the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear, is high in the northeastern portion of the sky. Most people recognize the bear's hindquarters as the Big Dipper. The Big Dipper serves as an excellent pointer to other stars at this time of year. The two stars in its bowl, Merak and Dubhe, are called "the pointers" because a line drawn through them and extended northward points to Polaris, the North Star, which is the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper. The same line, extended away from Polaris, points to Leo the Lion, high in southeastern part of the sky.

If you follow the arc of the curved handle of the Big Dipper, continuing beyond the end of the handle, you will "arc to Arcturus," a bright orange star sitting low in the northeastern portion of the sky. Arcturus marks the base of the tail of the kite-shaped figure of the constellation Bootes, the Herdsman, now lying almost horizontally.

The only bright star in the southeastern quadrant of the sky is Regulus, the alpha (or brightest) star in Leo. Leo is at an angle, but you may be able to make out the figure of a lion among its stars. The tail of the lion, the star Denebola, is due east. Spica, the bright alpha star in Virgo, is low on the eastern horizon. It can be found by continuing the line from the handle of the Big Dipper past Arcturus and on to Spica.

The giant figure of Orion, the Hunter, is in the southwest. Sirius, the Dog Star (in the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog), is very conspicuous in the southwest; it is the brightest star in the sky. Above Sirius, toward the south, is Procyon, the Little Dog Star, in the constellation Canis Minor. Very high in the west-southwest are the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux. Lower and farther west is the beautiful Pleiades (or Seven Sisters) star cluster, part of the constellation Taurus, the Bull.

Capella, the bright alpha star in Auriga, the Charioteer, dominates the northwestern quadrant of the sky. The fleur-de-lis shape of Perseus is below Capella. Cassiopeia looks like a letter E low in the north.