See the Moon Inside the Winter Circle

From February 4 to 6, 2020, find the waxing gibbous moon among the bright stars forming the gigantic football-shaped Winter Circle asterism. The moon will shine inside that asterism.

What is an asterism?

In observational astronomy, an asterism is a popularly known pattern or group of stars that can be seen in the night sky. The Winter Circle, also known as the Winter Hexagon and Winter Football, is an asterism composed of the brightest stars in the constellations of Canis Major, Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, and Canis Minor.

What stars make up the Winter Circle?

The Winter Hexagon is made up of these stars – Sirius, Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Castor and Pollux, and Procyon. On a clear evening, you can trace out the bright asterism just by standing outside and looking south from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. After dusk, the huge star pattern will stand upright in the southeastern sky, extending from about 20 degrees above the horizon to nearly overhead. The Milky Way passes vertically through Winter Football. Its football-shape is visible during evenings from mid-November to spring every year. The waxing gibbous moon will travel directly through the asterism from Tuesday through Thursday (February 4 - 6) this week.

How to locate the Winter Circle in the sky?

Start by facing southeast and find the extremely bright star Sirius sitting low over the horizon. From there, look 2.5 fist diameters to Sirius’ upper right (or 25 degrees to the celestial northwest) for bluish Rigel. Look well above Rigel for orange-coloured Aldebaran, and then continue to Aldebaran’s upper left to yellowish Capella at the top of the asterism (and nearly overhead). To identify the stars that form the football’s left (eastern) side, look lower and to the left (or celestial southeast) of Capella for the bright, matched pair of stars Castor and Pollux in Gemini (the Twins). One twin will be a few finger widths higher than the other. The very bright, white star Procyon sits two fist diameters below those twins – and we complete the football by returning to Sirius.

Get notified of the latest celestial events and learn how, where and when to see them in the sky above your location with Star Walk 2.

Happy stargazing!

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Image Credit:Vito Technology

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