Holiday Skies

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Holiday Skies
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The night sky offers a few gifts to everyone this week, including a string of planets, a beautiful Moon, and the pre-eminent constellation of winter.

Shortly after sunset tonight, as the colors of twilight get bolder, look toward the southwest for three planets. They’re strung out like bulbs on a strand of Christmas lights.

The brightest of the three is Venus, the brilliant “evening star.” Fainter Saturn stands to the upper left of Venus, by about one-and-a-half times the width of your fist held at arm’s length. And Jupiter — second only to Venus in brightness — is about the same distance to the upper left of Saturn.

Venus drops from view as the sky gets fully dark. By then, Orion is in view in the east. It’s perhaps the most beautiful of all the constellations, and the easiest to find. Look for its three-star “belt” extending up from the horizon. It’s flanked by bright orange Betelgeuse to the left, and blue-white Rigel to the right.

A couple of hours later, the brightest true star in the night sky climbs into view below the belt: Sirius, the Dog Star.

Finally, the Moon heaves into view by 11 or 11:30. Regulus, the bright heart of the lion, is far to the upper right of the Moon.

Almost everything will look the same tomorrow night, with the exception of the Moon. It’ll rise later and stand farther below Regulus, and it won’t be quite as full or bright.

So enjoy the view of the night sky — an extra present for this holiday week.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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