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STARGAZING

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Orion, The Giant Hunter

 

Orion is the brightest constellation in the winter sky and is very easy to find. It looks something like its namesake, the Hunter, and radiates with fascinating stars.

Look in the southern sky at least an hour after sunset. Locate the three stars that resemble steps in a stairway. This marks the hunter's belt and is the center of the figure. Find the four large stars forming a crude rectangle. Betelgeuse is Orion's shoulder and Rigel is Orion's foot.

The star marking the upper left-hand corner is the super red giant Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse is enormous and the brightest star in the constellation. If our sun were placed at its center, the planets out to and including Mars would orbit within it.

Blue-white Rigel is the lower right corner star of the rectangle. Rigel is about the same size as Betelgeuse, but is almost twice as far away. The surface temperature of Rigel is double that of our sun, and 16,000 times as bright.

Orion, the giant hunter, wandered the forests of the world with his faithful dog Sirius, always by his side. One day Orion saw seven beautiful sisters walking through the woods. Thinking he might ask one of them to be his wife, Orion set out after the lovely maidens.

The sight of this huge hunter crashing through the woods frightened the sisters. They called on Zeus to come to their rescue. Zeus changed the sisters into pigeons and off they flew. Maybe you've seen the seven sisters in the night sky as the stars of the Pleiades.

Orion was alone once more. The constellation moves west through the winter months and Sirius, the Dog Star, still accompanies Orion to this day. Sirius is usually the brightest point of light in the night sky. It follows Orion to the east and below his master. During the month of February, the planet Jupiter shines one magnitude brighter than Sirius making the giant gas planet brightest point of light in the mid- winter sky over Waynedale. Look for Jupiter just above Orion throughout most of the month. Happy Stargazing!

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