Our fanciful constellations, depending on how you picture them, make interesting orientations as the night progresses or the year marches on if you look around the same time on a given clear night.

Our fanciful constellations, depending on how you picture them, make interesting orientations as the night progresses or the year marches on if you look around the same time on a given clear night.

For example, in late March during the evening - say between 8 and 10 p.m., the big “V” shaped star cluster the Hyades, easy seen with unaided eyes, stands upright in the west-southwest. The V actually looks more like a self-respecting capital V, not on its side like it looks when in the southeast or due south.

Orion, the mythical hunter seems to be stepping down as it descends in the southwest. The bright blue-white star Rigel marks Orion’s “left foot” (seen on the right since we face him) is positioned in the sky so it is a little lower that the other stars in Orion, creating this perception. Turning north, the wonderful W-shape constellation Cassiopeia, on late March evenings, stands low with the W on its side. At this time of year, if you wait till about 12:30 a.m., Cassiopeia is at its lowest point in the northern sky, but the five stars imagined as a capital W is standing upright.

Of course you will need a low view to the north, away from hills and houses and so forth. I am also assuming in this column (and shouldn’t) that you live in mid-northern latitudes like me. If you live much farther south, Cassiopeia dips below the horizon and you won’t see the upright W at all.

In mid-evening, the constellation Cepheus the King is at its lowest, due north. As seen from mid-northern latitudes and further north, the “house” shape of Cepheus is upright, with the peak of the roof (or is it the point of King Cepheus’s cap?) is on top.

The Big Dipper is making its “joyful spring leap” as I like to say. When the Dipper is high in the northeast, the bowl is almost at its highest as if it sprang on its handle.

Low in the east is bright orange Arcturus, the brightest star in Bootes the Herdsman. The principal stars form a kite shape, and at this time, the kite lays on its side with Arcturus on the right.

In the southeast, Leo the Lion constellation is making its pounce upwards, led by its brightest star Regulus, the Lion’s heart.

In the south-southwest, high up are the relatively bright stars Pollux and Castor, marking the heads of Gemini the Twins. During the night, the constellation pattern appears to move east to west foot-first, with the shining heads following.

The orientation of the star patterns depends on your latitude. The angle a constellation makes it rises in the east or descends in the west is noticeably different for someone, say, in Massachusetts as compared to someone in Virginia. I always enjoy noticing this when we travel from PA to FL, to see family.

The most startling effect is seen if you were to travel below the equator. From the Southern Hemisphere, even the Man in the Moon is upside down as compared to what we see in the north. Last quarter Moon, on March 28, will appear to us in the Northern Hemisphere with the bright side to the left, like a “backwards D”. Down Under, the Moon will appear flipped, like a capital D should and the way the First Quarter Moon appears to us!

Don’t get disorientated, but it’s fun (I think so anyway) to consider that people standing on the OPPOSITE SIDE of the world, are UPSIDE DOWN with respect to us!

Keep looking up (and “up” depends on…)!

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.