Ken Harrison 6:41 p.m., Dec. 12
The Big Dipper, the Planet Venus
The Big Dipper, an abbreviated version of the larger constellation known as Ursa Major (the Great Bear), hovers nearly straight overhead during evening hours from March through June. The seven stars of the dipper -- all but one classified as "second magnitude" in brightness -- can be distinctly seen on clear evenings, even from light-polluted city locations. The two stars at the end of the bowl of the Big Dipper point downward toward a lone, second-magnitude star: Polaris, the North Star, which perpetually marks the direction of true north.
The Planet Venus is joined by a thin, waning crescent moon at dawn on the morning of Thursday, March 31. Both objects will lie near the east horizon at that time. Venus will continue its tenure as an easily visible "morning star" only for a few more weeks. As time goes on, Venus will be seen closer and closer to the horizon at dawn.