Navigating the Winter Hexagon: a Quick Tour Of The Round-Shaped Asterism

~6 min

In this article, we will explore the Winter Hexagon: the way to find it, the stars that comprise it, its deep-sky objects, and other fascinating features associated with this stellar sight.


The Winter Hexagon: basic facts

The Winter Hexagon – also known as the Winter Circle, Great Hexagon, and the Winter Football – is a large asterism, not a constellation. The stars in the Winter Hexagon are parts of six different constellations: it includes Rigel from Orion, Aldebaran from Taurus, Capella from Auriga, Pollux from Gemini, Procyon from Canis Minor, and Sirius from Canis Major. The apparent distance between Sirius and Capella – the two opposite vertices of the Hexagon – covers about 1/3 of the sky. The ecliptic also crosses the shape, so the Moon passes through it every month.

When to see the Winter Hexagon?

The Winter Hexagon graces the night sky during the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere (summer months in the Southern Hemisphere), typically from December to mid-April. It is best observed during late evening hours, reaching its highest point in the sky around midnight.

How to find the Winter Hexagon?

To trace the Winter Hexagon, follow these easy steps:

  • Find Orion's Belt, which consists of three bright stars in a straight line. This asterism is easy to spot in both hemispheres.
  • Find Rigel: draw a line at a 90° angle from Orion’s Belt and extend it to the south. This line will point to Rigel, the brightest star in the constellation Orion.
  • Find Aldebaran: draw a line through Orion's Belt stars and stretch it to the north to find Aldebaran in Taurus.
  • Find Capella: this star, the brightest in the constellation Auriga, is to the north of Aldebaran.
  • Find Pollux: continue moving counterclockwise to find Pollux in Gemini.
  • Find Procyon and Sirius: now, complete the circle by moving further in the same direction, and you’ll see Procyon from Canis Minor and Sirius from Canis Major.
Winter Hexagon stars: how to find
Orion’s Belt can serve as a waymark to many objects in the night sky.

To check if you identified all the stars correctly, open the Sky Tonight app and go to the search window. Start typing the “Winter Hexagon” in the search bar, and once the corresponding result appears, tap the blue target icon next to it. The app will show you the Winter Hexagon’s location in your sky. Point your device up, and the map on the screen will match your sky.

Winter Hexagon stars

Fun fact: all the stars comprising the Winter Hexagon are the most prominent in their constellations. In the following list, they are sorted by brightness.


  • Other names: Dog Star, α Canis Majoris (α CMa), HD 48915, HR 2491, HIP 32349
  • Type: star system
  • Magnitude: -1.4
  • Name’s meaning: “glowing” (Latin)
  • Description: Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. In the constellation Canis Major, it marks the neck of a celestial dog. In fact, it is not a single star but a binary star system composed of Sirius A, the biggest and the brightest of the two stars, and Sirius B, which is known as “the Pup”. To the naked eye, Sirius often appears to be twinkling with red, white, and blue hues when near the horizon, probably due to the atmospheric turbulences.


  • Other names: α Aurigae (α Aur), 13 Aurigae, HD 34029, HR 1708, HIP 24608
  • Type: star system
  • Magnitude: 0.1
  • Name’s meaning: “little goat” (Latin)
  • Description: Capella is the 6th-brightest star in the night sky and the 3rd-brightest in the Northern celestial hemisphere, after Arcturus and Vega. It marks the left shoulder of Auriga the Charioteer. To the naked eye, Capella looks like a single rich-yellow star, but in reality, it is a complex system consisting of four stars. These stars are organized into two pairs: Capella Aa plus Capella Ab (yellow giants), and Capella H plus Capella L (red dwarfs).


  • Other names: β Orionis (β Ori), HR 1713, HIP 24436
  • Type: blue supergiant
  • Magnitude: 0.2
  • Name’s meaning: “left foot or leg” (Arabic)
  • Description: Rigel is the 7th-brightest star in the night sky. In the constellation Orion, it marks the left leg of Orion the Hunter. It is the most massive component and namesake of a star system, which includes at least four components. To the naked-eye observer, it looks like a single blue-white star.


  • Other names: α Canis Minoris (α CMi), 10 Canis Minoris, HD 61421, HR 2943, HIP 37279
  • Type: star system
  • Magnitude: 0.4
  • Name’s meaning: “before the dog” (Ancient Greek)
  • Description: Procyon is the 8th-brightest star in the night sky. In the constellation Canis Minor, it is one of the two main stars. Procyon is a binary star system that includes two stars – Procyon A (main-sequence star) and Procyon B (white dwarf). To the naked eye, it appears like a star with a faint yellow hue.


  • Other names: α Tauri (α Tau), 87 Tauri, HD 29139, HR 1457, HIP 21421
  • Type: giant star
  • Magnitude: 0.9
  • Name’s meaning: “the follower” (Arabic)
  • Description: Aldebaran is the 14th-brightest star in the night sky, known for its red color. In the constellation Taurus, it marks the eye of the Bull. The star appears to be a part of the Hyades star cluster, but in fact, they are about 150 light-years from each other.


  • Other names: β Geminorum (β Gem), 78 Geminorum, HD 62509, HIP 37826, HR 2990
  • Type: giant star
  • Magnitude: 1.2
  • Name’s origin: Pollux (Greek myth character)
  • Description: Pollux is the 17th-brightest star in the night sky. In the constellation Gemini, the star marks the head of Polydeuces (or Pollux in Latin) – one of the twin brothers born from Queen Leda and Zeus. In the night sky, Pollux gives off a yellow-orange glow.

Winter Hexagon deep-sky objects

Since the Winter Hexagon encircles so many constellations, it provides an excellent vantage point for observing deep-sky objects. Here are the targets you can find in the Winter Circle with the naked eye. While they may not appear as detailed or vibrant as when observed with a telescope, they can still be discerned as faint smudges of light.

Winter Hexagon star clusters and nebulae
The Pleiades and Hyades are the two bright deep-sky objects in the constellation Taurus. The Orion Nebula, as you might guess, can be found in the constellation Orion. The Barnard’s Loop takes the form of a large arc centered approximately on the Orion Nebula.


Located within the constellation Taurus, the Pleiades (M45) is a famous open star cluster visible to the naked eye (mag 1.2). It appears as a small group of stars resembling a tiny dipper. By the way, just outside the Winter Circle, you can also find the Hyades – another open star cluster visible to the naked eye (mag 0.5), named after the five half-sisters of the mythical Pleiades (the two space objects, however, are not related).

Orion Nebula

Located in the constellation Orion, the Orion Nebula (M42) is a bright emission nebula that can be seen as a fuzzy patch of light below Orion's Belt. Its visual magnitude is 4.0. It is one of the most famous and easily observable deep-sky objects.

Barnard’s Loop

A large emission nebula surrounding much of Orion's Belt, Barnard's Loop (mag 5.0) is challenging to observe with the naked eye due to its faintness; it’s best seen in long-exposure photographs. However, under dark skies and with averted vision, it may be visible as a subtle arc of nebulosity.

Please note that while these objects can be spotted with the naked eye, they may appear more impressive when observed with binoculars or a telescope. Additionally, find the dark skies away from light pollution to get a better picture.

More features of the Winter Hexagon

Apart from its bright stars and deep-sky objects, the Winter Hexagon offers additional features that add to its allure.

Winter Triangle inside the Winter Circle

Winter Hexagon and Winter Triangle
In the center of the Winter Triangle lies the small and faint constellation Monoceros.

If you take Sirius and Procyon (which form the bottom left side of the Winter Hexagon) and connect them with Betelgeuse (which lies close to the center of the round-shaped asterism), you’ll get the star pattern known as the Winter Triangle, or the Great Southern Triangle. You might’ve also heard about its summer counterpart, which is visible all year round, despite the name.

The Heavenly G

Winter Hexagon and the Heavenly G
The Heavenly G includes both Castor and Pollux, as well as Betelgeuse, which is glowing in the middle of the Winter Hexagon.

The Heavenly G asterism features basically the same stars as the Winter Hexagon; Castor and Betelgeuse are the only new elements. To trace the “G” shape in the sky, follow the path of eight bright stars. Start with Aldebaran and go up to Capella in Auriga, then pass through Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Next, continue to Procyon and Sirius in Canis Minor and Canis Major, respectively. From Sirius, go to Rigel, and finally, make the last stop at Betelgeuse in Orion.

Milky Way splashed over the Winter Hexagon

Winter Hexagon and Milky Way
Although the core part of the Milky Way – the Galactic Center – is located in the constellation Sagittarius, the Winter Hexagon also has part of the celestial river running through its center.

As you look upon the Winter Hexagon on a dark and clear moonless night, you may notice a faint band of light arching across the asterism. This is the Milky Way, our home galaxy. If you've ever dreamed of seeing it, get away from the city lights and gaze into the Winter Circle.

The Winter Circle: round-up

The Winter Hexagon is not a constellation, but a group of noticeable stars that happen to form a circular pattern. It spans six constellations and features their brightest stars – Rigel, Aldebaran, Capella, Pollux, Procyon, and Sirius – and, therefore, can be easily traced out in the night sky.