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The Winter Sky

Updated on August 1, 2012

The Winter Sky

Winter Sky
Winter Sky

Glowing Band Arching Across the Night Sky

With the Milky Way galaxy glowing and arching across the night sky, the winter skies offer sky watchers an array of more visible stars and deep-sky objects than in any other season of the year. Brilliant stars, constellations, nebulas, and galaxies, are all scattered out in the sky so cleverly, forming shapes that our ancestors have named after the figures they represented for them in the past. The sky is full of brilliant objects so close together, that it is difficult to ignore them.

One of the most notorious of these objects is the constellation of Orion (the hunter) which transits through the night sky along the cellestial equator. Marking Orion´s foot is the brighest star in the constellation, Rigel. 10° above to the east from Rigel is Orion´s Belt formed by an asterism of three spaced stars (Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka) spanning for approximately 3° along Orion´s belt.

Following a path from Rigel, passing through Alnilam about 10° above Orion´s Belt is the red supergiant star Betelgeuse (largest and most luminous star in the sky) which represents the armpit of Orion. 10° west of the the armpit of Orion is Bellatrix, the shoulder of Orion. An imaginary line from Bellatrix 35° beyond Betelgeuse is Procyon (binary system: Procyon A and Procyon B). Just below Orion´s Belt is a group of stars one of which is not a star but the Orion Nebula (region of forming stars) and represents the sword of Orion.

Winter Stars and Constellations

Winter Sky
Winter Sky

Bright Stars

About 15° southeast of Saiph, Orion´s eastern leg, is the brighest star, Sirius (binary star system: Srius A, Sirius B) in the constellation of Canis Majoris. Northeast of Orion at approximately 35° is Castor and Pollux, the heads of the twins, in the constellation of Gemini. About 30° northwest is another bright star, Capella (binary star system type-G giant stars) in the constellation of Auriga.

Northwest of Orion, at about 20° is an easily recognizable red giant star (Aldebaran) which is 65 light years away from the Sun. Aldebaran forms part of the bull´s eye. Close to Aldebaran, lies an asterism of scattered open cluster stars called (the Hyades) which forms the mouth of the bull. Just about 15° northwest of the hyades is an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type stars, the Pleiades (seven sisters) which is a cluster of seven shining stars.

Laser Pointer Light

Laser Light
Laser Light

Navigating Through the Night Sky

the winter sky is one of the most stunning and impressive spectacles of the year. the winter stars seem to outshine other stars seen throughout other seasons. The constellation of Orion can be used as point of departure from where you can move to other stars and constellations. It is easy to find your way from Orion if you use its belt which is the most outstanding feature of this constellation.

In order to better admire the winter sky, you should look for places that are far away from light pollution which prevents good visibility. The use of a pointer laser light, which can be used to move from star to star, is a useful device which can aid at navigating through the night sky.

A planisphere can show you the Ascention and right declination of the winter sky objects, as well as the times and dates these objects appear in the sky.


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