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Christmas Skies

December 24, 2016

After the family dinner is nothing but a pile of dishes the next couple of nights, and the presents have all been unwrapped, you might step outside for a bit to enjoy one more Christmas treat: the glorious night sky. With winter upon us, you’ll see some of the most beautiful of all the stars and constellations.

About 9 o’clock, for example, look in the southeast for Orion, perhaps the shiniest constellation of all. First, find its three-star belt, which aims straight up and down. It’s flanked by the bright orange star Betelgeuse on the left, and the bright blue star Rigel on the right.

If you have a dark sky, look to the lower right of the belt for Orion’s sword. It consists of a couple of stars, plus a fuzzy patch of light in the middle of the sword. That’s the Orion Nebula — a massive cloud of gas and dust that’s giving birth to new stars. Thousands have already been born, and many others are taking shape even now.

Below Orion, just above the horizon, look for dazzling Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. It twinkles fiercely, quickly changing from red to blue to pure white.

About the same distance above Orion you’ll come to Taurus, the bull. It’s best known for its bright orange eye, the star Aldebaran, which stands at one point of the bull’s V-shaped face. And the bull’s shoulder, above Aldebaran, is marked by the tiny dipper-shaped star cluster known as the Pleiades — one of the many beautiful sights in the holiday sky.


Script by Damond Benningfield


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