Leo, the dominant constellation of spring, and Mars have now taken center stage high in the southern sky.
Look for Leo and orange-yellow-colored Mars high in the south after sunset. The head of the lion is outlined by what appears to be a backward "question mark" of stars. At the bottom of the question mark is Regulus, a first-magnitude star that stands out among the stars of Leo. After resuming its direct motion (west to east) last month, Mars has been moving away from Regulus and currently sits about 7 degrees below and to the left of Leo's brightest star.
If you are having trouble locating the lion, use the two "bowl stars" that are connected to the Big Dipper's handle as a guidepost to find Leo. A line drawn south from these two bowl stars will lead to Regulus.
Mars is still recognizable in Leo, even though it has faded considerably from --1.3 magnitude to 0.1 magnitude since going into opposition on March 3.
First Published May 7, 2012 12:00 AM