The Big Dipper has settled into the northwest skies, about half way up from the horizon at 8:45 this evening. Use the handle of the Big Dipper to “arc” westward to Arcturus, a brilliant orange-white star almost the same height, but in the west-southwest. Arcturus is the brightest star in the skies this month.

Evenings continue to arrive a minute or two earlier each day, which means between 8:15 and 8:30 PM, low in the south-southwest, you can watch a wonderfully close encounter develop between the First Quarter Moon and the bright, red star Antares. They are so close, in fact, that the Moon passes right in front of Antares, just as it gets ready to set near 10:45 PM EDT.

The star Arcturus appears near 8:15 PM, as twilight gives way to darker skies, seen about half way up in the west. It is due west at 10:30 and sets after midnight. This star owes its status as the brightest star in the summer skies because it is relatively close by at 36 light years, and it is huge, measuring 37 times the diameter of our Sun.