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Winter Circle

December 26, 2015

If you look hard enough, you can find a triangle, a square, or some other geometric pattern of bright stars to mark every season. But you don’t have to look too hard to find a pattern for winter, because it’s outlined by some of the brightest stars in the night sky. The only question is what shape you actually see. Some call it a hexagon, while others see a circle.

Either way, it’s in especially good view tonight because it has a brilliant interloper: the just-past-full Moon. It provides a great starting point for exploring this widespread pattern of stars.

The whole thing climbs into good view by about 9 p.m. At that time, look to the upper left of the Moon for the twins of Gemini — the stars Pollux and Castor. Pollux is closer to the Moon, and it’s a little brighter.

From there, let your gaze climb high for Capella, a yellow-orange star that’s the sixth-brightest in the night sky. Then scan over to the right for Aldebaran, the orange “eye” of Taurus, the bull, and back down toward the horizon for blue-white Rigel, the brightest star of Orion. The hunter’s other brilliant star, Betelgeuse, marks the circle’s hub.

From Rigel, drop to the lower left for the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star in all the night sky. Then it’s back to the left for Procyon, the little dog star, which is close to the Moon.

Whether you see it as a circle or a hexagon, it’s a beautiful sight for a holiday weekend night as we head into winter.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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