Cheetah Plains Gary Ray is an avid astronomer and enjoys sharing his knowledge with our guides and guests. He has kindly enough compiled a point form synopsis of what is happening in the skies over December.

  • Scorpius has disappeared over the Western horizon and the awe inspiring ‘hunter of the sky’, Orion, has taken over.
  • Orion brings with him both his dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor.
  • Sirius, the ‘dog star’, is the brightest star in the sky and forms part of Canis Major.
  • Procyon, further down on the ENE horizon makes up Canis Minor.
  • Between Sirius, Procyon and Betelgeuse, one of the largest red supergiant stars known, are joined, they form the summer triangle.
  • The constellation of Orion is rectangular in shape and consists of the 4 outer stars, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Siaph. The diagnostic Orion belt is made up of the 3 kings Alnilam, Alnitak and Mintaka. His sword, being the great Orion nebula,  are billions of stars best viewed through a telescope. (1300 light years away). The shape of the hunter with bow needs to be
  • Slightly towards the North of Orion one can see the ‘eye of the bull’, Aldebaran, the head of the constellation of Taurus.
  • It is clear to make out the V shape of the Hyades star cluster when identifying this star. Slightly more north, the spectacular cluster of PLEIADES, the 7 sisters.

There is a story told by the San people that goes something like this:

The group of hunters (Pleides) gathered then walked towards the sand dunes of Betelgeuse and Bellatrix. The San took refuge behind these dunes as they could see the 3 large Eland (Alnilam, Alnitak and Mintaka) as they walked towards the waterhole (Sirius). The San feathered their bows and fired their arrows over the dunes towards the Eland. The arrows missed and can be seen having past the Eland and flying away (Orions sword)

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  • VENUS rises in the WSW and shines brightly for the month of December as the evening star. Mars can be seen directly due west above Venus.
  • 7th December-First quarter (Waxing Crescent)
  • 14th December- Full moon
  • 21st December- Last quarter (Waning Crescent)
  • 29th December- New moon

If the skies are clear where you are over the NEW YEAR, then expect to be rewarded with a magnificent display of stars…….anyone for Champagne under the stars?

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