Stargazing Live - 3 January 2011

Part one of Sky at Night Magazine's hour by hour guide to what's up in the night sky over the 3 nights of the BBC's Stargazing Live programme
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6pm – As it gets dark now look for the cross shaped Cygnus sitting in the west. The Milky Way runs straight through this region of sky.

6:30pm – Look to the north now and you’ll see the familiar shape of The Plough which is made of seven bright stars belonging to the constellation of Ursa Major.

7pm – Jupiter is sitting low in the south-west at the moment. A small telescope is all you’ll need to see Jupiter’s moons – several of which are on show at the moment.

7:30pm – High in the south part of the sky, now, you should see the beautiful open cluster known as The Pleiades. A small pair of binoculars will show this amazing cluster sparkling away.

8pm – Stargazing Live starts on BBC Two now! If you’re out observing why not look for Uranus a little way above and to the right of Jupiter.

8:30pm – High in the west at the moment is the ‘w’ shaped constellation of Cassiopeia. The star Eta Cassiopieae is an interesting double star if you have a small telescope.

9pm – Between the stars of Cassiopeia and Perseus sits the lovely Double Cluster. It’s a pair of open star clusters (NGC 869 and NGC 884) that can be seen with binoculars and even the naked eye from dark skies.

9:30pm – Due south now is the distinctive ‘v’ shape of the Hyades open cluster. The left point of the ‘v’ is marked by the bright orange star Aldebaran.

10pm – In the south at the moment is the grand constellation of Orion, the Hunter. Compare the colours of Orion’s two brightest stars Rigel and Betelgeuse. The latter is distinctly orange whilst Rigel glows a white/blue.

10:30pm – If you have a telescope point it towards the ‘Sword of Orion’ the line of stars extending down below Orion’s Belt. Here you’ll find the magnificent nebula catalogued as M42. It’s a superb sight in binoculars or a small scope.

11pm – Keep an eye out for Quadrantid meteors shooting across the sky this evening. They’ll appear to be streaking from a point between the constellations of Ursa Minor and Boötes.

11:30pm – Are you tired yet? If not why not have a go at looking for the notoriously-tricky-to-observe Horsehead Nebula not far from the star Alnitak in Orion.

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