Some of the brightest stars in the night sky form the Winter Circle -- a jewel-studded necklace that fills much of the southern sky this evening. Look for it beginning about an hour after sunset, as the sky gets nice and dark.
The circle's hub is the bright orange star Betelgeuse in Orion, the hunter. To find it, first find Orion's Belt, a short line of three bright stars well up in the southeast. Betelgeuse is above the Belt.
Seven other bright stars encircle Betelgeuse. We don't expect you to remember them, but we'll give you the lineup anyway.
Start off below Orion's Belt with Rigel, the other bright star in Orion, which shines blue-white. If the Winter Circle formed the face of a clock, Rigel would be at about the five o'clock position in mid-evening.
As you circle clockwise, you'll come to the "Dog Star" Sirius, which is the brightest star in the night sky; Procyon, the little dog star; Pollux and Castor, the "twins" of Gemini; yellow-orange Capella; and Aldebaran, the orange "eye" of Taurus, the bull.
And the Circle has a visitor right now: Mars. The orange planet forms a triangle with the equally bright orange stars Betelgeuse and Aldebaran.
The stars of the Winter Circle are so bright that most of them are visible even from cities, where light pollution overpowers most of the stars.
Look for the Winter Circle in the southeast in early evening, and wheeling across the south and southwest later in the night.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2001, 2004, 2007
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.