Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Starry, Cloudy Nights...

These days we have heavy rains interspersed with bright, burning sunshine. Tall cumulus clouds opening up into brilliant blue skies. At night, the same clarity now allows us to catch a glimpse of stars and constellations that would have been impossible to see a month earlier.

The problem with clarity, though, is that it brings up new questions! What, for instance, is that bright double star sitting next to Porrima in the Virgo constellation?

Traditionally, this season of heavy rains concides with the Malayalam month of "Edavam" (15 May - 14 June), which coincides with the Taurus sun-sign & constellation. While Taurus is aligned with the rising sun in the east, in this part of the world, it is Leo that is sitting right overhead, straddling the sun's elliptic path. So we start every evening with the brightest star on Leo - Regulus - and work backwards to the characteristic triangle Denebola & Zosma) that makes Leo's rear-side. Further north lies the Great Bear (Ursa Major) aka "Sapta Rishi" (7 great sages), with a double-star (Arundhati) marking the bend in its tail. And towards south is the Crux (Trishanku) hiding below the Centaurus.

Since Porrima's neighbor is not on the charts, it is, in all likelihood, a planet. Perhaps it is Saturn...or is it?

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