WHEN you've finished putting the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve, and are putting out sherry and mince pies for Santa, take a moment to go out into the garden and look at the sky. To the south-west you'll see Venus blazing above the trees. High in the east, Jupiter will be shining like a sapphire.

Between the two, dominating the southern sky, will be the constellation of Orion. It's easy to find because of the ‘belt’ of three bright blue stars across its middle. Just beneath the belt you'll find Orion's Sword, a smaller line of three fainter stars. Through binoculars the middle star is revealed to be a cloud of gas and dust where stars are being born. In millions of years those stars will have Venus's and Jupiters of their own.

If you look to the west at 5.25pm you'll see a bright ‘star’ drifting through the heavens. Santa on his sleigh, or the International Space Station? You decide!

Stuart Atkinson Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal