Stargazing in the Caribbean
copyright? 1998 Jeannie Kuich


Don't get your sails in a flap! On May 21st five planets may be visible all at once but only in telescopes before sunrise. "Line ups" of planets don't really occur because they march along the curve of the ecliptic. They may only appear to "line up", depending upon your latitude. In this instance only three planets may be visible in the Caribbean to the naked eye: from the east to southeast: dim Mars with Venus to the right; then Uranus halfway (or so it appears) between them and the next two, Jupiter and Neptune. Uranus is visible with good binoculars, Neptune with telescopes.
The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is visible in hours just before dawn.

Fri. 1st: First Quarter
Sat. 9th: Full
Sun. 17th: Last Quarter
Sun. 24th: New

Sun. 3rd: Moon and the star Regulus in Leo in late evening
Mon. 4th: Moon and Saturn in late evening
Thu. 7th: Moon and the star Spica in Virgo in late evening
Sun. 10th: Moon and the star Antares in Scorpius in late evening
Sun. 17th: Moon and Jupiter before dawn
Wed. 20th: Moon and Venus before dawn
Thu. 21st: Moon, Mars, Venus, Uranus, Mercury, Jupiter before dawn
Sat. 23rd: Moon and Mercury before dawn
Sat. 30th: Moon and the star Regulus in Leo in evening
Sun. 31st: Moon and Saturn in evening

If we could choose the best of the seasonal sky views, we might agree that the early summer sky is the best of them all. The ancient stargazers saw the sky as a video in which the seasonal myths were portrayed. Let's take a look at some of the early summer sky myths which evolve across the sky as the main characters enter from easterly directions and exit in the west.

In the great Greek Orion the Hunter versus Scorpius sky story, we don't see Orion any longer because the Scorpion has executed Orion. Consequently only Scorpion rears triumphantly in the southeast. Another hero, Ophiuchus the Serpent Keeper, thinks it was wrong to kill Orion and is preparing to squash the Scorpion which is under his feet. Ophiuchus rises on his side to the left (north) of Scorpius and bright Jupiter appears between them. By the end of summer Scorpius exits in the west, having gotten his just desserts.

Meanwhile the Great Bear, mostly recognized as the Big Dipper, has gotten fat from too much indulgence at the blackberry bar. The three hunters in the handle of the Big Dipper have pursued the Bear since early spring and are preparing to kill it and roast it in the cooking pot. Bootes the Bear Keeper with Arcturus glowing like an orange coal, follows behind them. Arcturus forms the end of an arc extending through the Dipper's handle.

Rising in the northeast is the Summer Triangle formed by three bright stars. Vega, the brightest of the three in the constellation Lyra, lies closer to the fringes of the Milky Way. Deneb, the second point of the triangle, is the tail of Cygnus the Swan which lies below and to the left of Vega. Last is Altair, a bright star in a row of three in Aquila the Eagle which flies to the lower right of Cygnus.

Close to the southern horizon just after dusk is Crux, the Southern Cross, with its two bright pointer stars, Alpha and Beta Centauri. It's no wonder that the early summer sky is considered the finest of them all. But to find out for sure, come back in the winter and compare that sky too as you sail these magnificent waters.

Many other sky legends may be found in "Soap Operas Of The Sky", a stargazing guide by Jeannie Kuich.