WPBT2's Star Gazers

Episode #12-02 "The Winter Football"
Air Dates January 9- January 15, 2012

DEAN: Hey there star gazers.  I'm Dean Regas, outreach astronomer for the Cincinnati Oservatory.

JAMES: and Im Jmes Abury, director of the Kka Slva Pa Panetarium in Ginesville, Forida.  We're here to help you find your way around the winter sky.  This is perfect star-gazing weather…

DEAN: …And perfect football weather.

JAMES: The most distinguishing feature of the winter sky is a star pattern called the winter hexagon.  Covering almost half the sky, incorporating six constellations and eight of the twenty brightest stars visible from earth, the winter hexagon puts its stamp on the season. 

DEAN: But in honor of the NFL playoffs and the upcoming Super Bowl, I recommend changing its name to the winter football.  When you step outside and see the clear winter sky, you'll know what I'm talking about.  Let's show you…

(stop drop)

JAMES: Okay, we have our skies set for 9 p.m. looking south-east.  You can see most of these stars anytime from sunset to midnight too. 

DEAN: Look at all those bright stars!  If you can brave the cold, a ring of sparkling, multicolored jewels will shine down on you.  Some call this the winter circle or winter hexagon, but, even better I think they look like a giant football flying through the air, pointy on two ends, rounded in the two middles.  And winter is the season for football.  So we call this formation the winter football. 

JAMES: That's right, Dean.  The main player inside the winter football is Orion the hunter. Easily recognized by the three stars that make his snazzy belt, Orion stands about halfway up in the southeastern sky, like a hulking linebacker about to make a tackle.

DEAN: Now let's take a tour around the winter football.  Begin with the brightest star in the sky.  This is the Dog Star, named Sirius.  If you connect the dots of Orion's belt stars and continue that line to the left, you can't miss it.  Sirius is a brilliant white star and one of our closest stellar neighbors.  Following our football theme, Sirius marks the nose of one of our two team mascots, the Big Dog, or Canis Major.  In Greek mythology, Canis Major was one of Orion's great hunting dogs.

JAMES: Orion's other hunting dog, and our other team mascot, can be found up and to the left of Sirius - around the bright star Procyon.  Procyon is a yellow-white star in the constellation Canis Minor, the Little Dog. 

DEAN: Keep going up and to the left, and you'll find two stars of similar brightness.  These are the two heads of the Gemini twins, Pollux and Castor.  Both twins were incredibly athletic and would make a great quarterback and wide receiver combo. 

JAMES: The bright star nearest the zenith, and at the tip of the football is called Capella.  Capella is the brightest star in the constellation Auriga, the Charioteer.  Auriga could serve as coach and chauffeur to the football team.  Greek myths described him as having difficulty walking and he therefore invented the chariot.  But he was also good at giving advice and can look over the field from his position high in the sky.

DEAN: Let's start going down the other side of the football and we'll come to a bright, orange star.  This is Aldebaran, the glowing eye of Taurus the Bull.  Now I realize there is no pro football team called the Bulls. 

JAMES: But how about the Buffalo Bills? 

DEAN: That’s close enough for me.

JAMES: The last star in the football is the bright blue star, Rigel.  This marks the left foot of our buddy Orion and is one of the truly amazing stars in our galaxy.  It's around 800 light years away from us and is still one of the brightest stars...It must be huge!   

DEAN: Finally, you're back around to Sirius.  Congratulations, you've traced the winter football in the sky.  Look for it after dark for the next few months.  But what's that bright star in the middle of the football?

JAMES: That's the infamous Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star that makes even Rigel look tiny.  Let's compare Rigel to our sun.  In size…They're not even close.  Now let's compare Betelgeuse to Rigel. 

DEAN: Yikes!  Betelgeuse is even bigger than the earth's orbit. 

JAMES: That means that if Betelgeuse was our sun, we'd be orbiting inside of it.

DEAN: Good thing we're far, far away from it!

JAMES: Uh huh. So tonight, take a break from the NFL and go out to see the big game in the sky. 

DEAN: The winter football has more big stars than any pro team.  And they're available to you every night until baseball season when you…

BOTH: Keep looking up!


Episode #12-02 "The Winter Football"
Air Dates January 9- January 15, 2012

JAMES: 8 of the 20 brightest stars can be seen in one place tonight.

DEAN: Let's show you the winter football…

(stop drop)

JAMES: When you look southeast tonight, you can't miss Orion and his snazzy belt of three stars. 

DEAN: And look at all of those bright stars around him - covering half the sky.  Some people call this the winter circle, but it looks more like a giant football to me.

JAMES: The brightest star is Sirius, a.k.a. the Dog Star at the bottom of the football. 

DEAN: Up and to the left, you'll find the Little Dog Star Procyon, and then up higher still are the twin stars of Gemini, Castor and Pollux.

JAMES: Bright, yellow Capella marks the other point of the football and when you come back down the sky you'll spy the eye of Taurus the bull - an orange star called Aldebaran.

DEAN: Pass by blue Rigel, Orion's left foot and then come back around to Sirius.  You've traced the winter football in the sky.  Look for it flying in the sky near you this month.

BOTH: Keep looking up!


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