I don’t know if you’re a cat or dog person. I suppose there are this in the “neither” category, and I know for sure there are those who are equal opportunity minded and say “BOTH”! Good news, if you like the stars: There are constellations for each and they are in the sky tonight.

Most interesting, however, in the starry sphere, the “cat” is chasing “the dog”! As the stars cross the sky from east to west (an effect of the Earth’s daily spin), it is the “dog” in first place, and the “cat” never catches up.

Naturally, the stars know nothing of these imaginative tales (“tails”??). Constellations and informal star patterns called “asterisms” serve as handy ways for us to learn the star positions, seem to make a personal connection with the Universe, and inspire young and old to keep looking up.

Canis Major is the constellation of the Big Dog. Positioned to the lower left of Orion (as seen from the Northern Hemisphere), its most famous star is Sirius, the brightest star of the night sky. At around 8 p.m. in early March, Canis Major is seen due south.

I must confess that there is no constellation of a house cat. There should be. What we do have is Leo the Lion, and this star pattern on early March evenings is found rising in the southeast. Leo too has a bright star, known as Regulus.

Fairly close by both constellations are two small groups, which I like to think of as the “Puppy” (Canis Minor the Little Dog) and “Kitten” (Leo Minor the Little Lion).

From the star Sirius, look up and to the left, around the same height in the sky as the upper half of Orion. You will find a bright yellowish star, named Procyon. There are only two conspicuous stars making up Canis Minor, and Procyon is one of them (magnitude 0.3). To the upper right is the star Gomeisa, magnitude 2.9.

Procyon shines from a distance of 11.4 light years.

In 1799 the French astronomer Jerome Lalande also proposed a constellation, reportedly because he was a cat lover and felt sorry there was not a house cat represented. This faint star group lay below the consolation Hydra the Water Snake. In 1870, English astronomer Richard A. Proctor also suggested renaming Canis Minor as Felis the Cat. (Yay, Jerome and Richard!)

Leo Minor is a small and faint constellation, which requires a dark, moonless night to trace with eyes alone. It’s main stars form a rough shape of a squat parallelogram. The brightest star is magnitude 3.8, an orange star listed as Beta Leo Minoris.

Leo the Lion is easier to see, with its most western bright stars (leading the way across the sky) traceable as a backwards question mark with bright Regulus the point at the bottom (it is also imagined as a scythe). Leo Minor is just above this pattern, and is bordered on the other side by Ursa Major the Big Bear (which includes the famous Big Dipper).

Dog people beware: There’s a THIRD cat in the sky: Lynx, a long string of faint stars, near Leo Minor and between Ursa Major and Gemini the Twins.

Cats and dogs in the heavens? Think of that the next time it rains…

Don’t tell the starry felines, but there isn’t any mouse constellation. Astronomers recognize only 88 official constellations. Other patterns, like the Big Dipper, are called “asterisms.”  Try your imagination and propose some of your own!

Last quarter Moon arrived March 9th.

Keep looking up!

Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at news@neagle.com. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.