Holiday Skies

StarDate: December 25, 2010

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If you're heading home from grandma's house this evening, or you just need a few minutes to unwind after a busy holiday, then check out the evening sky for one last holiday treat. There's a beautiful array of stars, punctuated by a brilliant planet and the gibbous Moon.

As the sky gets good and dark, look westward for a holdover from another season: the Summer Triangle. It consists of the bright stars Altair, Vega, and Deneb.

Deneb is at the top of the triangle. It's the brightest star of Cygnus, the swan. That star pattern also has another name: the Northern Cross. The cross is especially easy to pick out a little later in the evening, because it stands straight up from the horizon.

The planet Jupiter stands high in the south in early evening. It outshines all the true stars in the night sky, so it's quite easy to pick out.

Over in the east, look for Orion, the hunter. It contains some of the brightest stars in the whole night sky. Look for Orion's "belt" of three stars aiming straight up from the horizon, with orange Betelgeuse to its left and blue-white Rigel to its right.

A couple of hours after darkness falls, the star Sirius rises below the belt. It's the brightest star in the whole night sky. But an even brighter object steals the show a couple of hours after that: the gibbous Moon. It soars high across the sky during the night, putting a brilliant end to another Christmas night.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010

 

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

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