Holiday Skies

StarDate: December 31, 2012

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As the clock strikes midnight tonight, many will light up the sky with fireworks. But it’s hard to beat the light show offered by the sky itself. The view is especially impressive away from city lights. But there are enough bright stars and other objects to shine through even from most cities.

The most prominent object is the Moon. It was full just four days ago, so it’s still big and bright. Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, the lion, is close to its left.

Sirius, the brightest star in all the night sky, is well up in the south. It twinkles fiercely, changing color from red to blue to pure white. And if you’re in the southern tier of states, you can also see the second-brightest star, standing below Sirius — Canopus, the luminary of Carina, the keel.

Orion, the hunter, shines to the upper right of Sirius. Its most prominent feature is its “belt” of three closely spaced stars. The hunter’s brightest stars are above and below the belt, forming the corners of a big box.

Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, blazes high in the southwest. It looks like a brilliant cream-colored star. It outshines everything else in the sky at that hour except the Moon, so you can’t miss it. And it has a bright companion — Aldebaran, the orange “eye” of Taurus, the bull.

So if you have a chance, take a break from the holiday festivities to appreciate the beauty of the night sky — an ever-changing light show that’s on display all year long.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012

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

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