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Constant Companions: Circumpolar Constellations, Part I

By Kat Troche

Winter in the northern hemisphere offers crisp, clear (and cold!) nights to stargazers, along with better views of several circumpolar constellations. What does circumpolar mean when referring to constellations? This word refers to constellations that surround the north and south celestial poles without ever falling below the horizon. Depending on your latitude, you will be able to see up to nine circumpolar constellations in the northern hemisphere. Today, we’ll focus on three that have gems within: Auriga, Cassiopeia, and Ursa Minor. These objects can all be spotted with a pair of binoculars or a small to medium-sized telescope.

The counterclockwise circumpolar constellations Auriga, Cassiopeia, and Ursa Minor in the night sky, with four objects circled in yellow labeled: Pinwheel Cluster, Starfish Cluster, Owl Cluster, and Polaris.
Credit: Stellarium Web

Try looking for these asterisms this season and beyond:

A black and white image from the Hubble Telescope of the Polaris star system, showing three stars: Polaris A, Ab, and Polaris B.
Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Evans (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), and H. Bond (STScI)

Up next, catch the King of the Planets before its gone for the season with our upcoming mid-month article on the Night Sky Network page through NASA's website!

For more information and activities visit: spaceplace.nasa.gov and nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov