Our Star Charts are updated monthly. Keep checking back here for the latest guide to the stars above.
DOWNLOADABLE STAR CHARTS
Star Chart for January 2016 – Western Sky
Star Chart for January 2016 – Eastern Sky
Star Chart for February 2016 – Western Sky
Star Chart for February 2016 – Eastern Sky
SUMMER SKY GUIDE
DECEMBER 2015 I JANUARY 2016 I FEBRUARY 2016
The clear skies and warm air of summer make for great stargazing conditions. When the sky darkens, grab your binoculars or telescope and head out and explore the night sky.
To orient yourself with this season’s star chart face the eastern half of the sky after sunset. First identify Sirius, which is the brightest star in the entire night sky. This celestial landmark is a point that you’ll return to often as you learn the summer sky. Sirius belongs to the constellation of Canis Major and is also one of the closest stars to Earth. The light you are seeing has taken 8.7 years to reach Earth.
North of Sirius is Orion (the hunter) which is easily recognised by the three stars in a row that form his ‘belt’. From the southern hemisphere we see Orion upside down but his ‘belt’ is quite distinctive. Three additional fainter stars form his ‘sword’. Seen upside down from New Zealand the belt and sword resemble a pot, hence its local and unofficial name. The brilliant star Rigel lies south of the belt (Orion’s leg) while the red supergiant star Betelgeuse is north of it forming his shoulder.
Tracing a line along the belt to the left you enter the constellation of Taurus. The prominent orange star is Aldebaran, the bull’s eye. With Aldebaran is a quite distinctive V-shaped star cluster called The Hyades, although in reality Aldebaran is quite a bit closer to us and isn’t a cluster member.
Continue your line from Orion’s belt beyond Aldebaran and you come to a beautiful naked-eye cluster. This cluster is known to Maori as Matariki, it is The Pleiades to the Greeks, Subaru to the Japanese and also commonly known as ‘The Seven Sisters’. Matariki is also part of Taurus. This cluster is well worth exploring with binoculars as you will see many more stars.
Using Orion as a guide, trace down to find Gemini with its famous pair of stars, Pollux and Castor. Above them lies Procyon, which is the brightest star in Canis Minor. Now turn your attention to the south. First locate Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky. You will see the constellations of Carina, Vela and Puppis rising in the southeast. Prior to 1920 these constellations were once a much larger constellation called Argo. This region contains many interesting objects and is well worth scanning with binoculars. Known as Atutahi to Maori, Canopus was important for navigation across Polynesia. In our era, it was also used as a navigation across Polynesia. In our era it was also used as a navigation aid by the Apollo astronauts on their missions to the Moon. During summer, the giant planet Jupiter dominates the late
During summer, the giant planet Jupiter dominates the late evening sky. It is the largest planet in the Solar System and outshines even Sirius. Jupiter rises in the northeast at about 9pm in mid-February, remaining within the constellation of Leo during the summer months. No other planets are visible until Mars rises about midnight in mid-February. Later, in the pre-dawn hours, brilliant Venus rises in the southeast as the ‘Morning Star’ just before the Sun.