Orion Time

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.

(photo linked from University of Arizona Astronomy Department.  Click on the photo to see it in its original context)

6 thoughts on “Orion Time

  1. Nah! He’s cool enough, but my fav is Cassiopeia. Who cannot love a constellation immortalized in “Its a Mad, Mad, Mad World”? It’s under da big W, says Durante, as he literally kicks the bucket!

    Anne

  2. For a few nights now, I see this line up of 3 bright stars, queuing up obediently like kindergarten children. And as I looked closer, I saw a red star very nearby. This is the first time I see a red star! (You must excuse my ignorance. In Hong Kong – dubbed the city that never sleeps, it is a rarity to see stars with lights so bright around 24hours a day.)

    Anyway, tonight I drew the star formation on the back of my hand and came home to check it out. Orion! Orion! How wonderful. Thanks for showing the pic as-it is in the sky so that for the uninitiated like me, I recognised it straight away. : )

    I am deliriously happy. Your explanation is also as clear as Orion is. Thank you so much.

    Cheerio from Hong Kong
    Q

  3. My friend has been watching Orion for a few nights now and is seeing what I think is a meteor shower behind or near the constellation. She thinks it a UFO and is enjoying that so much that i cannot bring myself to differ with her. Could she be right? Could it be a UFO she’s seeing? She describes lights, very bright but singular. No two light up at the same time, they seem to be scattered but lighting one after another in different parts of the sky near Orion. This is interesting and exciting to us both!

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