Winter is coming. Orion the Hunter is back.
Hidden all summer, the Orion constellation is visible again in our southern sky. I first noticed him last week, just before dawn.
You can pick out his features in the photo at left. The line of three stars in the middle is his belt, the vertical line below that is his dagger and the four stars at the four corners mark his shoulders and knees. The unusual red star at his top left shoulder is Betelgeuse. Click here to see how the Ancient Greeks made this pattern into a hunter.
Orion lies on the celestial equator so he’s visible in each hemisphere in winter. He’s one of my favorite constellations but truth be told he’s one of the few I can see. My neighborhood is bad for star gazing due to city lights and Pittsburgh’s frequent cloud cover. If the Ancient Greeks had seen as few stars as I do, they wouldn’t have named so many constellations.
Right now Orion is in the south but by January he’ll be at his best. Meanwhile he has a special claim to fame this month. On October 21 the Orionid meteor shower will flash in the space between Orion and Gemini, above and left of Betelgeuse.
So keep looking up. Even at night there’s always something to see.
(Orion animation by Michelet B via Wikimedia Commons; click on image to see the original)