December brings the welcome return of the winter constellations. My own favourite is still Orion the hunter. It is one of the few constellations in which the pattern of stars (with just a little bit of imagination) resembles the character it is meant to be like. Orion is now rising in the east in the evenings, and will come to dominate the southern sky over the winter months.
One of Orion’s shoulders is marked by the bright star Betelgeuse, a red giant in the last stages of its life. One of his knees is marked by the even brighter star Rigel. The belt of three stars act as pointers to other bright stars. Follow them to the left and downwards, and you will come to Sirius, the brightest star (apart from the Sun) in the sky. Follow them to the right and upwards, and you reach Aldebaran, the chief star in the constellation of Taurus the bull.
And close to Aldebaran at the moment is the bright planet Jupiter, the brightest object in the sky after the Sun, the Moon and Venus. Jupiter is so large that you could fit over 1,000 planet Earths inside it. With good binoculars, you can see its four large moons (first discovered by Galileo just over 400 years ago). With a small telescope, you can see the belts of Jupiter, vast weather systems that encircle the planet.
This will be the last meeting before the Winter Solstice/Christmas. We shall resume in the new year with meetings as follows:
January 10: Observational evening. Focus on the Orion Nebula and Betelgeuse. Wrap up well!!
January 24: Chairman’s Annual Address
Visitors and new members are always welcome. There is a £3 charge for visitors to the lecture evenings, and a £2 charge for the observational evenings. Annual membership is a mere £15, with a reduction to £10 for senior citizens.