In Episode SH006 of Star Hopping…
And the show continues! We’re covering the Orion area of the sky this week, and will show you how to find some of the most spectacular nebulae in the entire sky.
In this episode we’ll be exploring what is most probably the second most well known constellation in the sky, right after the Big Dipper. We’re talking about the constellation of Orion, hanging low in the eastern sky in mid November at about 10:30 PM. Packed with no less than 7 stars brighter than second magnitude, it’s the most prominent constellation in the late Autumn and Winter skies. Additionally it’s loaded with spectacular deep sky objects of several types.
Orion the Hunter
Let’s look at this extremely conspicuous constellation. Orion is a Hunter, complete with a sword, a club, and a bow. The hunter figure is framed by two stars that form the shoulders, with the stars Betelgeuse and Bellatrix. Two other bright stars mark the feet; Rigil and Saiph. Betelgeuse and Rigil are both in the top ten brightest stars list. Betelgeuse shines orange at magnitude 0.6, and Rigil glows blue at magnitude 0.3. Above the shoulder stars is a group of three stars that form the eyes and mouth in the head of the hunter. Above the head to the left are two lines of stars that form the club in the right upraised hand of the Hunter. To the upper right is an arc of stars the form the bow in the raised left hand. Not sure how he could be wielding two weapons at the same time, but hey, the ancients were imaginative.
At the center of the constellation is the most prominent feature, the famous Belt of Orion, formed by the three bright stars Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. Hanging off the belt is Orion’s Sword, delineated by a string of stars, all enshrouded in nebulae.
Here in the sword lies the greatest jewel of all deep sky objects…
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Credits for this Episode
- Star Chart Images & Simulations Courtesy of SkySafari Astronomy http://SkySafariAstronomy.com.
- Orion Nebula image by David Hearn / Kissimmee Park Observatory
- Zeta Orionis Region image by David Hearn / Kissimmee Park Observatory
- Horsehead Nebula image by David Hearn / Kissimmee Park Observatory
- M78 image by Hap Griffin