Stargazing Live – 5 January 2011

Part three 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

Composite image of the globular cluster NGC 3201, obtained with the WFI instrument on the ESO/MPG 2.2-m telescope at La Silla. Image Credit: ESO

6pm – If you’ve just popped outside, that bright light low in the south south west is Jupiter.

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If you’ve got a small telescope you’ll be able to pick out all four of Jupiter’s moons at the moment – two on either side of the planet’s disc.

7pm – The magnificent winter constellations are rising higher in the east now, as Cygnus and the star Vega drop down over the western horizon.

Meanwhile, why not scan the stunning star clusters known as the Hyades and Pleiades, which are high in the southeast now.

The Hyades cluster is shaped like the letter ‘v’, while the Pleiades are more tightly grouped together, sitting just above and right of the Hyades at the moment.

8pm – It’s Stargazing Live time now, on BBC Two!

9pm – Welcome back to those of you who’ve returned from watching Stargazing Live.

If you haven’t come prepared don’t worry.

You’ll need just your naked eye to see out next target.

It’s the interesting multiple star system of Alcor and Mizar.

You’ll find them in the handle of the Plough asterism.

A small telescope will resolve Mizar into two points of light, where as the naked eye shows it as one.

10pm – High in the southeast at the moment is the asterism known as the Winter Triangle. The bright stars Betelgeuse, Procyon and Sirius mark its three corners.

11pm – Let’s round off our Stargazing Live observing extravaganza with a look at two glorious galaxies.

You’ll probably need a starchart and a 6-inch scope to track them down.

They are M81 and M82.

You can find them by extending a line from the star Phad through the star Dubhe (both in Ursa Major) by about twice the distance between the two stars.

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You’ll find the two galaxies roughly in the region at the end of this imaginary line.