Night Sky

By Collin O’Mara-Green

The Winter Circle

Photo by Jimmy Westlake, 2008.

Although winter has come and gone, the Winter Circle – aka the Winter Hexagon, is still visible, not too late in the evening. This oversized asterism is composed of six 1st-magnitude stars: Rigel in Orion, Aldebaran in Taurus, Capella in Auriga, Pollux in Gemini, Procyon in Canis Minor, and Sirius in Canis Major. An additional 1st-magnitude star, Betelgeuse in Orion, lies toward the center of the Circle/Hexagon.

To find the Winter Circle/Hexagon, first find the easily recognizable constellation of Orion. The three belt stars give it away. Then look at the bright bluish star at the lower right, Rigel, the southwest corner of the asterism. Rigel is the brightest star in Orion and the seventh brightest star in the night sky. Draw a line through Orion’s Belt stars upward to find Aldebaran, the ruddy eye in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Continue upward in a counterclockwise direction to find the next bright star, Capella, the northernmost point of the Winter Hexagon and the sixth brightest star in the heavens. Winding counterclockwise, you’ll come to Castor and Pollux, The Twins of Gemini. Then keep heading down to Procyon, the seventh brightest star in the sky. Finally, come down to the southernmost star in the Winter Hexagon and the brightest of them all: Sirius. Sirius is the brightest not only in the Winter Circle/Hexagon but in the entire night sky. Only the moon and some planets can outshine Sirius.

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