Winter approaches


Even though winter officially starts on Dec. 21, the Summer Triangle is still visible in the night sky. In the summer it was high in the eastern sky, now it’s high in the west.

Vega, Deneb and Altair, three bright stars in three different constellations, make up the Triangle. It’ll continue to be visible until January.

My favorite constellation, Orion, is now making its appearance in the night sky. It rises in the east late evening as the Triangle begins to set in the west.

The Pleiades star cluster is also becoming visible. It’s low in the east at nightfall, high overhead at midnight, and low in the west before dawn. You can see it from now through April above and to the right of Orion, in the constellation Taurus the Bull. It looks like a mini–Big Dipper.

At 425 light years away, it’s one of the closest clusters to us, and the most visible with unaided vision. It contains about 1,000 middle aged hot blue stars that formed within the last 100 million years. Even though they’re bright, only about 14 are visible to the naked eye.

The nine brightest stars are named for the seven sisters of Greek mythology, along with their parents. The English name is of Greek origin which means “to sail, “sailing ones”, or “flock of doves”.

We all know the Japanese name for the Pleiades. In case you don’t remember, it’s Subaru, which means “unite” or “coming together”, and is the Subaru auto logo. Obviously, it’s one of the most famous sky objects in Japan.

The Big Dipper has reached its lowest point in the sky for the year. It sits close to the northeastern horizon, with its bowl pointing up, and is parallel to the land. People in the southern United States are unable to see it this time of year. If the mountains are in your field of view, you also may not be able to see it.

Thanksgiving is on Thursday the 25th. I hope you can come to Winterfest! It's in the South Fork Hungry Logger next to the Visitor Center. on Friday, it’s from 12-7 p.m. and on Saturday it will be 9 a.m.-4 p.m. So come out and have fun! Children can meet Santa Claus at certain times, too.

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