IT IS now fully dark by mid-evening, and although it's still only autumn (even if it doesn't feel like it) if you are blessed to live somewhere with a dark sky you can now see some of the stars of winter shining in the east before midnight, writes STUART ATKINSON.

Look over to the east at around 9pm and you'll see what looks like a small knot of silvery blue stars low in the sky, looking like a mini version of the Big Dipper to the naked eye. This is a very famous star cluster, one of the most famous in the whole sky in fact: the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, so called because those with good eyesight can make out the seven brightest stars in it without needing any help from binoculars or a telescope.

Having found the Pleiades, look just below and to the left of them and you will clearly see what looks like an arrowhead or a letter V lying on its left side. This is another famous star cluster, the Hyades, and it represents the sharp horns of Taurus the Bull. In fact, both the Hyades and the Pleiades are in the constellation of Taurus. The bright red star on the end of the lower 'horn' is Aldebaran, a red giant star many light years away and many times larger than our own Sun. But it's not actually a member of the cluster, it just happens to lie in the same direction as seen from Earth.