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Originally published Thursday, December 6, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Star Watch

Christmas Eve star will be Mars

On Dec. 24, Mars reaches opposition. This means that it will appear as a bright orange star in the east soon after sunset. The Planet Watch feature...

Get ski and boarding conditions all winter long with webcams, snow alerts and more at seattletimes.com/snowsports

On Dec. 24, Mars reaches opposition. This means that it will appear as a bright orange star in the east soon after sunset. The Planet Watch feature on the daily Seattle Times Weather Page can help you determine its location.

The Geminid meteor shower peaks this Thursday-Friday, so if we have clear skies and you can get away from the city lights you should be treated to one of the best meteor displays of the year. Bundle up, get comfortable and face east as soon as the moon sets.

Our other December target is the open cluster of stars called the Pleiades. They are among the most noted stars of history, poetry and mythology. Native American legend described them as seven lost children. They are mentioned in the Bible, and included in ancient cave paintings in France. As soon as the sun sets, find them high in the eastern sky. By about midnight they will be high in the southern sky. To the naked eye they appear to be five to seven tightly packed blue stars. The group is made up of more than 1,000 individual stars that were born about 100 million years ago and are drifting through space. The bright blue stars are young hot stars that will burn out over the next few million years. Telescopic views of this group show them surrounded by a lovely faint nebula. This is actually a dust cloud that the stars are drifting trough. The individual grains of dust are lit by reflection from the bright blue stars.

— Rodney Ash, special to The Seattle Times

Rodney Ash is a member of Seattle Astronomical Society, www.seattleastro.org. Star Watch appears in Northwest Weekend the first Thursday of each month.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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