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Skywatch

Thu May 5, 2016 HYDRA

Not quite a hundred years ago, professional astronomers established eighty-eight official constellations in the sky. 48 of these star patterns had been recognized since antiquity; the rest were invented by navigators and star chart makers, beginning in the 16th century. One of the ancient constellations, recognized by the ancient Greeks is Hydra, and it is the longest and largest of all the star-figures in the heavens. After sunset tonight, this elongated swamp serpent stretches from west to east, midway up in the south, lying beneath the zodiacal constellations of Cancer, Leo, Virgo and Libra. Although it takes up the most space in the heavens, the constellation of Hydra contains only one fairly bright star, and that is Alphard, an Arabic word which means, the solitary one. Alphard lies below the constellation Leo and marks the monster’s heart. The planet Jupiter shines as a very bright star-like object above hydra tonight, near the top of the sky.