J U L Y 2 0 0 2 S K Y W A T C H
by Maya del Mar
The great planetary show of 2002 is disappearing from the sky. Brilliant Venus is the sole evening star, and by next month she will have sunk below the horizon. Venus is close to Leos bright star Regulus now. Regulus is a major star, one of the four royal stars of the ancients, which guarded the four corners of the sky.
The giant sickle shape of the constellation Leo is apparent now low in the West after sunset. Regulus is the bright star at the end of the handle. The sickle is the head of the lion, and Regulus is the heart, sometimes called Cor Leonis. Regulus means "Chief."
The delicate crescent new moon passes just north of Regulus and Venus between the nights of July 12 and July 13. This is a special gathering, and it will be beautiful. Each planetary grouping in the sky is precious and unique, never to be repeated in the same way, and deserves to be honored as a rare glimpse into the grandeur of the solar system.
The bright orangish star above is Arcturus, the fastest-moving of all of the bright stars. Arcturus means "Watcher of the Bear," and Arcturus can be found by following the handle of the Big Dipper out past the end. (The Big Dipper, or Ursa Major, the Big Bear, is low in the northwestern sky now.)