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How do you star hop?

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Tonight for April 14, 2015

The three medium-bright stars of Orion's Belt point to reddish Aldebaran.  Image Credit: SolarEmpireUK

The three medium-bright stars of Orion’s Belt also point to reddish Aldebaran. Image via SolarEmpireUK

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Rebecca wrote:

What is star hopping? What does that mean?

Amateur astronomers use star hopping to go from stars and constellations they know … to ones they don’t know yet. First, look for noticeable patterns on the sky’s dome. One very easy pattern to find at this time of year is the constellation Orion the Hunter. You’ll find it descending in the west after sunset. Orion is easy to find because it contains a very noticeable pattern of three medium-bright stars in a short straight row. These stars represent Orion’s Belt.

If you can find Orion, you can use it to star hop to Sirius, the sky’s brightest star, in the constellation Canis Major. Orion and Sirius are dropping into the sun’s glare at this time of year, so be sure to look for them soon after the sun goes down.

You can also use Orion’s Belt to find the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus, as shown on the chart above right.

And that’s how you come to know the constellations. You use what you’ve already learned to build outward to find new patterns.

EarthSky community member Robert Garfinkle wrote this book! Star-Hopping: Your Visa to Viewing the Universe

EarthSky astronomy kits are perfect for beginners. Order today from the EarthSky store

View larger. |The two outer stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper always point to Polaris, the North Star.  Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Abhijit Juvekar  Thank you, Abhijit!

View larger. |The two outer stars in the bowl of the Big Dipper always point to Polaris, the North Star. Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Abhijit Juvekar Thank you, Abhijit!

Bottom line: Find new stars and constellations by star hopping from ones you already know.

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