Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science
This evening, the waxing gibbous moon nearly aligns with the galactic anticenter – the direction opposite to the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. Tonight’s moon, moreover, resides inside the Winter Circle – an incredibly large star configuration made of six brilliant winter stars.
The Winter Circle – sometimes called the Winter Hexagon – is not one of the 88 recognized constellations. Rather, it is an asterism – a pattern of stars that is fairly easy to recognize. Our sky chart, however, does not adequately convey the Winter Circle’s humongous size. It dwarfs the constellation Orion the Hunter, which occupies the southwestern part of the Winter Circle.
Here is how to locate the Winter Circle from mid-northern latitudes. At nightfall and early evening, look high overhead for the bright star Capella. This star marks the top (or more properly: the northern terminus) of the Winter Circle. As Capella shines way overhead, the constellation Orion the Hunter is prowling in the south. Draw a line downward through Orion’s Belt to find Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. This star marks the bottom (the southern tip) of the Winter Circle.
We include this sky chart to help you connect the Winter Circle stars.
Written by Deborah Byrd
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