AS OCTOBER heads towards November, and as we all keep finding clocks and watches we didn't put back an hour when the clocks went back next weekend, the constellations of autumn are slowly leaving the sky and being replaced by the first glittering stars of winter, writes STUART ATKINSON.

If you look low in the sky to the east at around 8pm you'll see what looks like a small, tight knot of stars hanging above the horizon. This is a very famous winter star cluster astronomers know as The Pleiades but is more commonly called The Seven Sisters. It acquired this nickname because people with good eyesight can see seven stars within the cluster on clear, Moon free nights. However, look at it through binoculars and you'll see it contains dozens of stars, and through a telescope hundreds of twinkling icy-blue stars become visible.

This star cluster - which many stargazers think looks like a miniature version of The Big Dipper - is only 430 light years away, close in astronomical terms. That means when you look at it the light entering your eyes set off from the cluster's stars in the year 1588, just after much of the Spanish Armada was destroyed by storms as it sailed around Scotland, fleeing for home.

Just beneath the Pleiades you'll see a prominent V of stars lying on its side. This is the Hyades cluster, meant to represent the horns of Taurus The Bull. In mid-December these two clusters will be high in the sky all through the night and a spectacular sight, and a comet will be pass between them, hopefully bright enough to be seen with the naked eye. We'll see...!