Tonight’s waxing gibbous moon resides inside the Winter Circle – an incredibly large star configuration made of six brilliant winter stars. Be sure to notice the variety in the colors of these stars.
The Winter Circle – sometimes called the Winter Hexagon – is not one of the 88 recognized constellations. Rather, it’s an asterism – a pattern of stars that’s fairly easy to recognize. Our sky chart cannot adequately convey the Winter Circle’s humongous size! It dwarfs the constellation Orion the Hunter, which is a rather large constellation, occupying the southwestern part of the Winter Circle pattern.
Tonight’s sky (January 17, 2011) —- Find the waxing gibbous Moon (96% illuminated) surrounded by the stars of the bright Winter Constellations (Auriga, Taurus, Orion, Canis Minor, Canis Major, and Gemini). This beautiful celestial view will climb up to the zenith at around 10 PM local time.
Image: Stellarium (You may download this free planetarium software here.)