The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Save our skies

Be a considerate neighbor: Reduce nighttime glare. Shield all your outside lights downward (or turn them off completely) and enjoy the beautiful, starry night sky.

Looking toward the western sky

Looking toward the western sky

Looking toward the eastern sky

Looking toward the eastern sky

Night sky—
My rant

Yes, it’s that time of year again where I try and remind everyone about outdoor lighting. The view of our night sky is fading, and outdoor lighting is to blame. From many locations in New Mexico, especially near cities, the Milky Way is invisible and forgotten. The major constellations and the outline of stars that make them recognizable have faded into the glow of the sky.

Take Leo, in the western sky about 11:00 p.m. this month. From the cities, you may have a chance to see Regulus, the alpha, (brightest) star in Leo at magnitude 1.3, and perhaps even Denebola, the beta star. If you live away from Rio Rancho and Bernalillo or the Hollywood Casino, you may be able to find Zosma and Algieba, the next two brightest stars in Leo.

Now try and find Aquila, the Eagle, on the western Horizon about 10:00 p.m. Altair is the brightest star and should be visible since it’s a bright 0.77 magnitude star. The next brightest star is Alshain. Good luck finding this third magnitude star from a city. The rest of Aquila is so dim, only those far away from city lights could make out its shape.

If you can look south about 10:00 p.m., over the glow of Albuquerque, you can most likely see Spica in Virgo forty degrees above the horizon at a bright 0.95 magnitude, and Antares, the heart of Scorpius, at a hefty 0.96 magnitude, twenty-two degrees above the horizon. Now try and find Graffias, Dschubba, and Pi Scorpius, the three stars that top to bottom form the arms of the scorpion. Maybe from the outskirts of town these will be visible.

In the north, from the city, is the Big Dipper, a part of Ursa Major. It may be visible. Dubhe is its alpha star at 1.79 magnitude; Merak is the next brightest in the dipper portion at magnitude 2.37. These two stars form the pouring side of the dipper. At 10:00 p.m., Dubhe will be forty-eight degrees above the horizon in the west-northwest. In the handle, from the dipper out, are Alioth, Mizar, and Alkaid. But with light nearby, finding the rest of the Big Bear, the animal that gives its name to the constellation, is tough. Look for Muscida, Tania Australis, and Talitha.

Now find Polaris, the North Star, if you can at 2.02 magnitude. It belongs to Ursa Minor, or sometimes it’s described as the Little Dipper. Can you find Kocab in the dipper part due north, about fifty degrees up? What about Pherkad just above and to the right?

I can name whole constellations most people will never see until they get away from the light pollution in our skies. Try Camelopardalis, Chepheus, Lynx, and Lacerta in the north; Leo Minor, Coma Berenices, and Crater in the west; Norma in the south; and Delphinus, Scutum, most of Lyra, Vulpecula, and Sagitta in the east.

So, now for the rant: Turn off your outdoor lights when you aren’t using them to come and go from your home. Point the lights you use down toward the ground and shield them so the light source (the bulb or filament), can’t be seen above the horizontal plane at the bottom of the fixture. Encourage business to do the same. Back-lighted signs should have a black background with colored or white lettering. Parking lot lights need to shine down and be properly shielded. And, casinos, do you really need to shine spotlights into the sky or have glaring light boards along the roads? And, finally, use the least amount of light to do the job. Not only will you help slow the loss of the night sky, but you just might save some energy and money at the same time. Now, go outside and try and find all of the stars I mentioned this month. Happy hunting. For more information on preserving our view of the stars, see the International Dark-Sky Association’s website at

• Mercury is low in the west just after sunset. On the 15th, look to the lower left of the thin crescent moon using binoculars about thirty minutes after sunset. Mercury will be hiding in the twilight of the setting sun.

• Venus is the brightest thing in the sky, except for the Sun and the Moon. Look west any evening, even before sunset. Venus will be there. On the 4th, look for a sensational lineup of stars, planets and the Moon. In the west-northwest, Castor and Pollux, of the Gemini Twins, will be just above the horizon an hour after sunset. To the left of these will be Venus, the Moon, Saturn, and then the star Regulus.

• Look for Mars in the early morning eastern sky. The Moon and Mars will be in conjunction on the 10th about an hour before sunrise.

• Jupiter is an evening planet in the west. Look for the Moon on the evening of the 27th about one hour after sunset. Just above and to the right will be Antares and then Jupiter a bit higher.

• Saturn, too, is in the evening western sky after sunset. On the 30th, find Venus and Saturn almost on top of each other in the west-northwest. Above and to the left will be Regulus.

• The Moon will be full on the 30th at 7:49 a.m. MDT and new on the 14th at 9:13 p.m.

If you have a question or comment for Charlie, you may email him at


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