The constellations in tonight’s sky host many familiar star patterns. For northern observers, spring is the best time of year to see the Big Dipper in Ursa Major, the Little Dipper in Ursa Minor, the Kite in Boötes, and the Sickle of Leo. Observers in the southern hemisphere can catch the stars and deep sky objects around the Southern Cross, the Fish Hook in Scorpius, and the Teapot in Sagittarius.
The night sky tonight looks different depending on location. The constellation maps below show the sky around 10 pm in the mid-northern, equatorial, and mid-southern latitudes.
Observers in mid-northern latitudes can see Ursa Major, the Great Bear, high overhead in the evening. It makes its way across the sky during the night. The Big Dipper can be used to identify the red giant Arcturus, the brightest northern star, and the Kite pattern in Boötes, the Herdsman. The Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici) of Boötes appear below the handle of the Big Dipper.
The constellations in the eastern sky around 10 pm include Boötes, Hercules, Corona Borealis, Serpens, Lyra, and Ophiuchus. Cygnus rises in the northeast and the zodiac constellations Virgo and Libra appear in the southeastern sky.
Vega and Arcturus, the brightest stars in the northern celestial hemisphere, both appear in the east. Vega is identified as the bright star above Lyra’s parallelogram pattern, while Arcturus sits at the base of the Kite in Boötes. Arcturus can be found by following the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle. Spica, the luminary of Virgo, lies along the same curved line. It appears at the base of the Y of Virgo, an asterism used to find the Virgo Cluster of galaxies.
Other bright stars in the eastern sky include Alphecca, the jewel in the Northern Crown (Corona Borealis), Rasalhague in Ophiuchus, and Eltanin in Draco. Eltanin and its neighbour Rastaban mark the Dragon’s eyes in the rectangular asterism that outlines the head of Draco.
The Keystone, a fainter asterism that represents the torso of Hercules, also appears in the east, between the constellation figures of Lyra and Corona Borealis. The Keystone can be used to find the Hercules Globular Cluster (M13) and the smaller globular cluster M92.
Deneb, the most distant first-magnitude star, rises in the east around 10 pm. It marks the top of the Northern Cross, one of the most familiar asterisms of the northern summer sky.
The constellations in the northern sky tonight include Ursa Minor, Draco, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Camelopardalis. These constellations are circumpolar (visible throughout the year) to locations in mid-northern latitudes. Ursa Minor hosts Polaris (the North Star), the star at the end of the Little Dipper’s handle. The head of Draco appears between the pole star and the Keystone in Hercules, while its tail lies between the Big and Little Dippers.
Two other prominent asterisms – the W of Cassiopeia and the House of Cepheus – are also visible in the north. Cassiopeia’s W is formed by the five brightest stars of Cassiopeia. Schedar and Caph, the two rightmost stars of the W, can be used to find Alderamin, the brightest star in Cepheus.
The constellations that dominated the winter sky now set in the west in the evening. These constellations – Auriga, Gemini, and Canis Minor – host some of the brightest stars in the sky. Capella, the 6th brightest star in the sky, is part of Auriga’s hexagon. Procyon, the 8th brightest star, is the luminary of Canis Minor. Pollux and Castor, the 17th and 23rd brightest stars, mark the heads of the Twins represented by Gemini.
Hydra, the largest constellation in the sky, is visible in the southwest, while Perseus sets in the northwest. The fainter constellations Cancer, Lynx and Camelopardalis, require very clear, dark skies to be seen.
The constellations in the southern sky tonight include the zodiac constellations Virgo and Leo, which are high above the southern horizon in the evening. Leo is recognizable for the Sickle, an asterism that outlines the Lion’s head and mane. Regulus, marking the Lion’s heart, is the 21st brightest star in the sky. The Sickle can be used to identify Alphard, the brightest star in the otherwise faint Hydra.
The crooked Y pattern with the bright Spica at the base is the most visible part of Virgo. The large asterism extends from Spica in the direction of Denebola at the Lion’s tail.
The rectangular asterism formed by the brightest stars in Corvus is known as the Sail or Spica’s Spanker. It can be used to find the famous Sombrero Galaxy in Virgo, the Antennae Galaxies in Corvus, and the globular cluster M68 in Hydra.
Observers in equatorial latitudes see many of the same constellations as those in mid-northern locations, but these constellations do not appear in the same place. Additionally, observers near the equator can see a number of constellations in the southern sky that are invisible to northern observers.
The zodiac constellation Virgo and Libra are high overhead this time of year. The brightest stars in Libra appear as the extended claws of the celestial Scorpion, while Virgo is recognizable for the Y-shaped asterism formed by its brightest stars. Spica, the constellation’s brightest star, appears at the base of the Y.
The constellations Corvus and Crater, representing the raven and cup of the god Apollo, can be found using Spica. The brightest stars in Corvus form an asterism known as Spica’s Spanker or the Sail, while the fainter Crater appears below the centre of the Y of Virgo. Both constellations are perched on the back of Hydra, the Water Snake.
Centaurus, one of the brightest constellations in the sky, also appears high above the horizon at this time of year.
Ursa Major, Draco and a portion of Ursa Minor appear above the northern horizon. Polaris in Ursa Minor is invisible from locations south of the equator, but Kochab and Pherkad, the Guardians of the Pole, rise high enough above the horizon to be visible. The bright Lyra appears in the northeast and the faint Lynx and Leo Minor in the northwest. Hercules, recognizable for the Keystone asterism, also lies in the northeast.
Ophiuchus and Serpens take up much of the eastern sky. These constellations are less prominent than their zodiac neighbours Sagittarius and Scorpius to the southeast. Ophiuchus appears between the Keystone in Hercules and the constellation figure of Scorpius. The head of the Serpent can be found between Corona Borealis and the claws of the Scorpion, while its tail is visible below the constellation figure of Ophiuchus on a clear night.
The brightest constellation in the western sky is Leo. Recognizable for the Sickle asterism and the bright Regulus, the constellation appears with the tail up from equatorial locations. The much fainter Cancer lies below Leo. The easiest way to locate it is to find the bright Beehive Cluster (Praesepe), which appears in the centre of the constellation. The cluster is easily visible to the unaided eye on a clear night.
Hydra, the largest constellation in the sky, is not particularly bright but it can be found using the Sickle of Leo. Alphard, Hydra’s brightest star, is the only bright star in this area of the sky. The head of Hydra is formed by a circle of stars between Alphard and Tarf, the brightest star in Cancer.
Centaurus, Crux and Carina dominate the southern sky for observers in equatorial latitudes. These constellations host some of the brightest stars in the sky. Centaurus is home to the Southern Pointers, Alpha and Beta Centauri. Known by the proper names Rigil Kentaurus and Hadar, these stars point at the top of the Southern Cross, an asterism used to find the south celestial pole.
The Southern Cross is the most visible part of the constellation Crux. Formed by the bright stars Acrux, Mimosa, Gacrux, Imai and Ginan, the asterism is the most recognizable feature of the far southern sky. Alpha and Beta Centauri help distinguish it from the larger and fainter False Cross, formed by four bright stars in Vela and Carina.
Scorpius, Centaurus, Crux and Carina are high above the horizon in the evening for observers in the southern hemisphere. Scorpius is recognizable for the Fish Hook and the Scorpion’s claws, with the bright Antares connecting the two star patterns.
Centaurus hosts Alpha and Beta Centauri, the 3rd and 11th brightest stars in the sky. These two stars point toward the Southern Cross, an asterism that includes the 13th, 20th and 25th brightest stars: Acrux, Mimosa, and Gacrux. Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to the Sun, includes Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighbour. The fainter Lupus can be found in the region between Antares and Hadar (Beta Centauri).
The constellations Leo and Boötes dominate the northern sky. The bright Denebola and Arcturus make it easy to find the fainter Coma Berenices constellation, which lies between its better-known neighbours. Coma Berenices hosts the Coma Star Cluster, a bright (mag. 1.8) open cluster that stretches across 7.5° of the sky. The famous contrasting double star Izar in the Kite of Boötes is another fine target for backyard telescopes.
Ophiuchus, Sagittarius and Scorpius are the most prominent constellations in the eastern sky. The two zodiac constellations are easily recognized for the asterisms formed by their brightest stars: the Fish Hook in Scorpius and the Teapot in Sagittarius. The bright Antares marks the Scorpion’s heart and Shaula, the stinger. Kaus Australis, the brightest star in Sagittarius, is part of the Archer’s Bow. The constellation figure of Corona Australis, the Southern Crown, is visible next to the Teapot.
Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, and its host constellation Canis Major set in the west in the evening. The triangle of stars above Sirius can be used to find the three constellations that once formed Argo Navis: Puppis, Carina, and Vela.
Hydra, the largest constellation in the sky, is also visible in this part of the sky. The head of Hydra lies between Sirius and Regulus, and the constellation’s brightest star, Alphard, is part of the mythical monster’s back.
For observers in the southern hemisphere, the southern sky is filled with small, faint constellations that require good conditions to be made out. Carina is the most notable exception. The constellation is home to Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky, and to the bright Miaplacidus and Avior. Other easily visible constellations include Triangulum Australe, which contains the bright Atria, Pavo, home to Peacock, and the relatively bright Ara, representing the celestial Altar.
Achernar, the star marking the end of the celestial river (Eridanus) makes an appearance low above the horizon.
The faint Octans, which hosts the South Star (Sigma Octantis, known as Polaris Australis), the marker of the south celestial pole, is difficult to make out from light-polluted areas. The same goes for Dorado and Mensa, the constellations that host the Large Magellanic Cloud, the brightest galaxy in the sky and one of the nearest galaxies to the Milky Way.