The constellation Orion the Hunter, high in the south at nightfall, is the gathering place of an amazing 7 of the 12 brightest stars visible from the northern hemisphere. This year, planet Jupiter has joined the company, outshining them all. Six of the nighttime suns form the Winter Hexagon, a shape that includes Orion’s foot star, Rigel, and 5 others that surround the great figure. Orion is recognized by Rigel, below three evenly spaced stars in a row, the Hunter’s belt, and glowing Betelgeuse, above the belt, inside the hexagon.
To trace the Winter Hexagon, spot bluish Rigel, then, to the left, notice the brightest true star, Sirius. Go up and left of Sirius to find yellowish Procyon. Planet Jupiter, not part of the Hexagon, gleams to the right, below Pollux of the Gemini Twins. Continue right to golden Capella, then down to red-orange Aldebaran of Taurus the Bull and to the left and down to Rigel.
These distant suns can be seen even in many towns and cities where the sky has a kind of hung ceiling of light pollution. Globe at Night is an initiative devoted to raising awareness of the condition of the night sky. Individual stargazers, you and I, are invited to become a part of a community that is contributing to knowledge about the quality of viewing conditions around the world by reporting on, for example, how many stars we can see in the Orion constellation, which includes many more than those noted above.
To contact Judy Isacoff go to: www.naturesturn.org