Night Skies over Ealing: The Winter Circle

Night Skies over Ealing: The Winter Circle

I’m trying something new, a night sky guide for us city dwellers. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Ealing and most of West London is very light polluted, on the Bortle Scale ( a scale that ranks light pollution) we are a Bortle class 8 out of 9. Class 1 is true dark skies like you get in the middle of the Sahara or the Atlantic Ocean and class 9 is the greatest amount of light pollution (think central London, NYC, Hong Kong.) As you can see, this is not an ideal place to see deep sky objects or anything faint. However having said that, there are things to see in our skies!

The Winter Circle

The lovely British weather

One thing I should mention is the weather. The weather can really ruin a celestial event if it takes place over a few nights and you end up with clouds the whole time. Fortunately, the Winter circle is something that is in the sky all winter so you can still get a chance to see it at some point even though it feels like the clouds are never going to go away!

The Stars of the Winter Circle

The Winter Circle (or Hexagon) is the name of an Asterism that encompases some of the most prominent stars and constellations in the winter night sky. Seen rising in the Southeast and making its way across the southern sky over the course of the night, it consists of Sirius, the dog star of Canis Major and the brightest star in the sky, Rigel, the foot of Orion, Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, Capella in Auriga, Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, and Procyon, the little dog star of Canis Minor. The Pleiades appear to the upper right of the circle and the Milky Way almost perfectly bisects it (that’s not something you will be able to see in Ealing though.) The moon makes a monthly trip though it as do many of the planets, which is something that makes it interesting to observe the whole season.

Deep Sky Objects

There is also one deep sky object you can see from Ealing within the circle, the Orion Nebula found in Orion’s sword. It can be seen with good binoculars and small telescopes, and I even got a snap of it using a telephoto lens. There are loads of nebulae and star clusters in and around the circle, I plan on trying to observe them all from here and see what I can see. I will keep you posted if I find anything good! Please let me know in the comments if you have had any luck with any deep sky objects here in Ealing!

A few other exciting things to see in December provided the weather cooperates!

Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (Hat tip to Kish Woolmore for the link)

Geminid Meteor Shower

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