Orion

One of my favourite winter constellations is Orion.

Orion - a constellation also known as 'The Hunter'

Orion

Often referred to as ‘The Hunter’, this spectacular part of the night sky is rich with stars and deep sky objects.

It’s easily recognised in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter evenings and can be spotted by searching for the 3 stars forming the ‘belt’ of Orion.

Orion can also be found close to his two ‘hunting dogs’ Canis Minor and Canis Major… hot on the heels of Taurus, the bull (at least in popular Greek mythology).

The most prominent stars in this constellation are:

Meissa is Orion’s head.

Betelgeuse, at its right shoulder, is a red star with a diameter larger than the orbit of Mars. Although it is the α-star, it is somewhat fainter than Rigel.

Bellatrix, is at Orion’s left shoulder.

Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka form the asterism known as Orion’s Belt: three bright stars in a row; from these alone one can recognize Orion.

Eta Orionis, between Delta Orionis and Rigel.

Saiph is at Orion’s right knee.

Rigel, at the constellation’s left knee, is a large blue-white star, among the brightest in the sky. It has three companions, invisible to the naked eye.

Hatsya is at the tip of Orion’s sword.

Also visible with the naked eye is the fantastic Orion Nebula – a swirling birthplace of stars filled with luminous gas and dust.

The Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula

Use binoculars or a small telescope and you’ll see that there are even more spectacular deep sky objects like the Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula – breathtaking!

About Derek Shirlaw

I'm passionate about science communication, social media, and my home country, Scotland. In particular, I have a real interest in astronomy, digital marketing, and the great outdoors.
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