Winter Circle

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Winter Circle

For fans of geometric shapes, the night sky is a paradise. You can connect the bright stars to make just about any shape you can think of: triangles, squares, rectangles, parallelograms, and many more.

One of the biggest and brightest of these figures is the Winter Circle or Hexagon — seven bright stars, with one more as its hub. It’s in the east and southeast as night falls now.

Its hub is Betelgeuse, the orange shoulder of Orion. It’s about halfway up the sky at nightfall, in the east-southeast. To see the circle, drop the lower right of Betelgeuse until you come to Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. It’s in the big dog, so it’s also known as the Dog Star.

Using Betelgeuse as the center of your clock, sweep clockwise to Procyon. It is the brightest star of the little dog, so it’s known as the Little Dog Star.

Next up, in the east, are Pollux and Castor, the twins of Gemini. Capella, in Auriga the charioteer, is high above them. Then go to the right for Aldebaran, the eye of the bull. Right now, the planet Mars is close by, so it adds one more point to the circle.

Then it’s down to Rigel, Orion’s bright blue-white foot, and back to Sirius to complete the shape.

This is a good time to view this giant figure. The glare of the gibbous Moon overpowers most of the stars, but the bright lights of the Winter Circle shine through — a beautiful bit of celestial geometry for winter nights.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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