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Current Positions of the Planets in the Night Sky:









Find Leo & Virgo from The Big Dipper

The Zodiacal Sky:

Aries, Taurus & Gemini

Cancer, Leo & Virgo

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Finding Gemini, Cancer and Leo from The Big Dipper

The well-known asterism (star group) known as The Big Dipper (or The Plough) in Ursa Major (The Great Bear) can be used as a starting point to finding Gemini, Cancer and Leo in the night sky (provided these constellations are above the observer's horizon at the required time).

To find Leo, project the line between the stars Megrez (Greek letter Delta Ursae Majoris) and Phekda (Greek letter Gamma Ursae Majoris) in a Southward direction until you reach the bright star Regulus (Greek letter Alpha Leonis) as indicated in the animation.

To find Gemini, project the diagonal line between Megrez and Merak (Greek letter Beta Ursae Majoris) towards the South-west until you come across the two leading stars of The Twins, namely Castor (Greek letter Beta Geminorum) and Pollux (Greek letter Beta Geminorum).

Cancer can be found using the The Big Dipper or, alternatively, by using Gemini and Leo. Project the line formed by Alioth (Greek letter Epsilon Ursae Majoris) and Phekda towards the South-west, into the 'dark' region of sky between Gemini and Leo; Cancer is located about half-way between Castor and Regulus.

Note that this method primarily applies to Northern hemisphere observers. Southern hemisphere observers can only use this method if they are situated North of latitude 28 South (The Big Dipper is not wholly visible at latitudes further South than this).

A diagram showing the lines pointing to Gemini, Cancer and Leo from The Big Dipper can be seen here.

Animation showing how to find Gemini, Cancer and Leo from 'The Big Dipper' or 'The Plough' asterism (Copyright Martin J Powell 2009)

In the final frames of the animation, Ursa Major (The Great Bear) appears with his head facing towards the East, as depicted by the late writer and illustrator H. A. Rey in the 1950s. Star atlases often show The Bear facing in the opposite direction (West), e.g. as illustrated here.


Copyright  Martin J Powell  2009

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