Year after year, the arrival of spring is something that makes us rejoice. The vernal season is synonymous to flowers, sunlight, warmer temperatures and longer days. It is a time of flourishing and of expectation of the summer to come. The hardest days of winter are behind and we long to enjoy the colorful great outdoors. It is the perfect moment to go camping in the wild and gaze at the stars around a bonfire with loved ones.
When spring arrives, with it comes much more than flowers. An entire new set of constellations is painted in the night sky. Accordingly, and staying true to our leitmotif, for today’s feature on the blog we’ve chosen to disclose the most prominent Spring constellations visible from the northern hemisphere.
Pay attention, take notes and you’ll be well-versed to share your knowledge on the stars at the next campfire with your friends!
What are spring constellations?
The most noticeable constellations in the night sky from late March to late June in the northern hemisphere are traditionally known as the spring constellations. Although northern observers can glimpse scores of constellations in the sky all year long, there are six major constellations generally identified with springtime. These are Ursa Major, Boötes, Leo, Cancer, Virgo and Hydra.
In fact, the night sky seen in springtime is especially majestic. Three of the main spring constellations are actually the biggest constellations observed in the sky. In this way, Hydra, Virgo and Ursa Major are particularly imposing, each occupying more than 1,200 square degrees. A good way to discover for yourself is by taking a look at modern-day star maps stationed in springtime.
Spring constellations seen from the northern hemisphere
With its 1,303 square degrees and a total of 283 stars, Hydra takes up a bit more than 3% of the night sky, making it the largest pattern of stars observed from Earth. Its position in the sky makes it especially distinguishable during the month of April for northern hemisphere observers.
In ancient Greek mythology, Hydra, or the “Water Snake” is a monster confronted by Hercules during his epic quest to accomplish the Twelve Labors.
Sprawling in the sky to a total of 1,294 square degrees, Virgo is only a tad smaller than Hydra, and the largest zodiacal constellation. However, with 169 stars, it contains considerably less celestial objects than Hydra.
If you’re ever looking for a star map in which Virgo stands out among other constellations, make sure that it is based in the month of May. It is at this time of the year that Virgo is remarkably distinguishable. And in case you don’t know, Under Lucky Stars actually prints lovely star maps based on a given time and location. Definitely worth checking out!
Let us not forget our regular dose of ancient Greek mythology: Virgo represents the deity Persephone, queen of the underworld and daughter of Demeter, the goddess of harvest and fertility.
The Ursa Major, or the Great Bear, is one of the best known constellations in the sky. Although it is visible to northern observers throughout the year, it is especially prominent in springtime, specifically during the month of April.
The Ursa Major constellation is primarily famous for the Big Dipper asterism. Formed by the seven brightest stars found in the constellation, the Big Dipper is one of the most beloved and recognizable patterns of stars in the sky. It is so popular that it can be seen in countless pop culture references, tattoos, or even printed on phone cases.
Boötes is another of the six major spring constellations, and it is easily distinguishable during the month of June. With its name meaning “herdsman” in ancient Greek, Boötes is a very popular constellation both among astronomy enthusiasts and in popular culture. Why? Because it contains the renowned Kite asterism, one of the most discernible shapes seen in the night sky.
The Leo constellation is also very easy to find in springtime: just look for a group of bright stars shaped like a backwards question mark. This asterism is known as the Sickle, and it lies within the Leo constellation.
Leo is also one of the constellations of the Zodiac, perched between Cancer to the West and Virgo to the East in the night sky. Similarly to the myth of Hydra, Leo represents a mythological lion slain by Hercules as one of his Twelve Labors.
Meaning “the crab” in latin, Cancer is a spring constellation also included in the Zodiac, and it is found between Leo and Hydra. Not surprisingly, in ancient Greek tradition Cancer also represents another mythological beast slain by Hercules.
And forever since then, Cancer and the other constellations have stayed above us in our night sky as a reminder of the remarkable feats we can accomplish if we set ourselves to them. Just start by looking at the stars and constellations and let yourself dream!