Evening Splendor

StarDate: November 21, 2009

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Some of the most beautiful sights in all the night sky are creeping into better view as we head into the last month of autumn. They're arrayed across the east in mid to late evening now, but they rise four minutes earlier each night, so they'll be in view by early evening by the time winter arrives.

Around 9 or 10 o'clock, the constellation Orion is in view low in the east. Look for the hunter's belt -- a short line of three fairly bright stars that stands almost straight up from the horizon. The bright orange star Betelgeuse is to the left of the belt, with blue-white Rigel to the right of the belt.

Two other bright stars are off to the left of Betelgeuse, a bit lower in the sky. They're Pollux and Castor, the twins of Gemini. Pollux is the brighter of the two, with Castor above it. Pollux is pale orange, although the color isn't quite as intense as it is with Betelgeuse, and Pollux isn't quite as bright.

One more orange light stands well above Betelgeuse: Aldebaran, the "eye" of Taurus, the bull. It's at one point of a V-shaped pattern of stars that outlines the bull's face. The rest of the stars in the V are members of the Hyades -- the closest major star cluster to Earth.

And a more famous cluster stands above Aldebaran: the Pleiades, which looks like a tiny dipper.

Keep an eye on this beautiful array of stars -- plus some other bright ones all around them -- during the long nights of fall and winter.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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