Winter Hexagon

     As the evenings become darker, so do the mornings and it is helpful to remember that you can also get outside in the morning just before sunrise to enjoy stars and planets and the Moon. 

     The Winter Hexagon asterism appears in the early evening, giving you time to orientate yourself before becoming overwhelmed by the wealth of stars appearing as the skies darken.  Sirius is the very bright star to the south.  If you hold this diagram above your ahead, it will show you the orientation of the sky.  Hexagon equals 6…or does it?  

Sirius (the Dog Star) is the brightest star in the sky 8.7 light years or 80 million million kilometres away in the constellation of Canis major.  Extra twinkly due to its immense heat, its name is derived from the Greek for ‘scorching’.  It is orbited by a small companion star every 50 years whose own brightness is overshadowed by Sirius.

Procyon (in Canis minor) a binary system, is one of the nearest to our Sun.

Pollux is an old red star near the end of its life, part of Cancer constellation.

Capella is a bright double star in Auriga.  Variability is visible as the stars pass in front of each other over a period of 27 years.  They are ten times the size of the Sun.

Aldebaran appears part of the Hyades but is only 65 light years away, compared to 150 light years for the main group.  It looks like the eye of Taurus.

Rigel in Orion is a blue/white double star, 51,000 times as bright as the Sun.  It forms part of a 4 star system.

So, how many stars make up the Winter Hexagon…?

In the realm of the planets there is a real treat in December when Jupiter and Saturn can be seen quite closely together, low but very bright on the southern horizon.  This is the closest to each other since 1623!

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