Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, two constellations better known as the Big and Little Dippers, represent a pair of bears in the sky. Watching over these two is the constellation Bootes. This constellation is called the Herder, but many myths include Bootes as part of the Ursa family. Whatever his job in the heavens is, Bootes is an interesting grouping of stars.
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Go out and take a look in the sky for Bootes once the weather warms up in the northern hemisphere. A spring constellation, Bootes should be visible by ten in the evening in mid-April.
Locate the Big Dipper and follow the handle to Bootes. The Big Dipper is always visible if you live in the northern latitudes. It is to the north and looks like a giant ladle, with a handle and a bowl. Follow the handle in an arcing curve until you come to the first bright star. This is the key component of Bootes, Arcturus.
Gaze at Arcturus. This is the fourth brightest star of the night sky and is just 36 light years away from Earth. Arcturus means “bear watcher,” which is a reference to Ursa Major and Minor. There is no star visible from Earth north of the celestial equator that is brighter. Twenty-five times larger in size than our own sun, Arcturus is located at what would be the waist of Bootes.
Look up from Arcturus and see the shape of a kite. If Bootes were being named today, it would surely be called “the kite.” A large diamond-shaped assembly of stars forms the upper torso and head of Bootes and is easily identified. Below Arcturus are the legs of Bootes: much dimmer stars that make the herdsman appear bowlegged.
Watch for the meteor shower in Bootes that occurs each year. The Quadrantids seem to be coming out of the upper part of Bootes every December into January. This meteor shower is always worth a look as there can be dozens of meteors each hour. Bootes will be visible in winter, just not in the same spot you saw it in the spring. In the early morning hours, you will be able to find it using the Big Dipper, and then watch for the meteors. The best time for you to observe this meteor shower is during the nights of January 3rd and 4th, as these dates always have had the peak meteors per hour.