If we extend the line formed by the three stars of Orion's belt towards the north (left in the evening) we reach the reddish star Aldebaran. That star is the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus the Bull.
The ringed planet Saturn has been visible low in the east before dawn from the beginning of the month. It is providing great views to anyone with a telescope willing to rise early. Tomorrow morning the crescent Moon is above and to the left or north of the planet.
The bright star at the bottom of Orion in the eastern sky is Betelgeuse. It is a cool giant star many hundreds of times wider than our Sun. Astronomers call such stars, 'red giants'. The name Betelgeuse comes from an Arabic phrase meaning, 'the armpit of the central one'.
Those who rose before dawn this morning to get their presents could see the red planet Mars in the north-east sky with the gibbous Moon above and to its left or north. Tomorrow on Boxing Day morning the Moon is at last quarter phase and is closer to Mars, but still above and to the left of the planet.
The most successful comet discoverer in history, Jean-Louis Pons, was born on this day in 1761. As a young man Pons started his astronomical career in the unassuming role of concierge at the observatory in Marseilles.
Orion the Hunter is low in the eastern sky. The three stars in a row represent his belt while above the rightmost (southern) star of the belt is Orion's dagger. Note that wearing the dagger above the belt was not a Greek fashion; it is just that Orion was first named from the northern hemisphere so that to us he is upside down.
Today is the day of the summer solstice for at 4:11 am Australian Eastern summer time the Sun reached its most southerly position for the year. At midday (~1 pm summer time) it is at its highest in the sky for the year and the interval between sunrise and set is the year’s longest.
The star Rigel represents the left foot of the constellation of Orion the Hunter. Although the Beta star of the constellation, it is brighter than the Alpha star the giant Betelgeuse. Rigel is the seventh brightest star in the sky and is 860 light years away from us.
The bright planet Jupiter is now visible both in the evening sky – rising in the east soon after dusk – and in the morning sky – before dawn in the north-west. This morning the gibbous Moon was to the left or west of Jupiter, while this evening it is to the right or east of the planet.
An X-ray view of the remnant left behind by Kepler’s supernova of 1604. The different colours indicate different energies of X-rays, while the background stars are from the Digitised Star Survey. Courtesy X-ray: NASA/CXC/NCSU/M.Burkey et al.; optical: DSS This time of the year it is appropriate to contemplate the star of Bethlehem that is briefly mentioned in the in the New Testament’s Gospel of Matthew.
In Greek legend Orion the Hunter was the son of Neptune. He was a giant who could wade through the seas with his head above the waters. Nature conservation was not his strong point and he threatened to kill all animals on Earth.
The region around the lunar craters Newton and Moretus. Sketch and copyright Harry Roberts ©, all rights reserved The Moon’s south-polar regions often draw the sketcher’s eye: the whole area seems intricately fitted together by ‘Nature’s hand’ – a vast mosaic of impact craters.
German astronomer Max Wolf (1863-1932) discovered over 200 asteroids or minor planets. Wolf’s large output resulted from the use of pioneering photographic techniques for his searches. He discovered the asteroid 580 Selene on this day in 1905.
These are the constellations the Sun passes in front of during the year. Looking from west to east in the early evening the following zodiac constellations are visible: Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus and Gemini.
After dusk the constellation of Orion the Hunter can be seen low in the eastern sky. As seen from the southern hemisphere, Orion is upside down. Rigel, the bright star at the top of Orion, represents Orion's left foot.