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Now that we’re well into spring, you can easily see the Big Dipper at the start of the evening, suspended upside down, high above the northern Shamokin horizon. It’s nearly overhead. If you’re facing north it looks like the Big Dipper is dumping out on you! That and some tender loving care will keep lawns green, gardens growing, and farm fields productive, along with helping maintain weeds, dandelions, and mosquitoes! According to old-time lore, the overturned Dipper is one of the reasons we get so much rain this time of year.

I always ask folks at my stargazing programs how many constellations they can find in the sky. Most of them can point out two or three, and just about everyone can locate the Big Dipper. The only problem is that the Big Dipper is not a constellation. It’s what astronomers refer to as an asterism, defined as an easily recognized pattern of stars in the sky. There are eighty-eight “official” constellations that can be seen from Earth that were agreed on internationally in 1930. The Big Dipper isn’t one of them.

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and retired broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is the author of “Stars: a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations,” published by Adventure Publications and available at bookstores and adventurepublications.net. Mike is available for private star parties. You can contact him at mikewlynch@comcast.net.

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