If you look southward around 8 p.m., you’ll easily notice a short, straight row of three medium bright stars. These stars represent the Belt of Orion the Hunter. Also, notice the star Sirius.
You’ll have no trouble spotting the constellation Orion the Hunter and the bright star Sirius tonight – or even on bright moonlit nights. But to see the Hare and Dove, you need a moderately dark sky with little to no moonlight. Tonight, Sunday, February 2, should be just fine, as it’s only a slender waxing crescent moon that lights the early evening hours tonight. Around 60 to 90 minutes after sundown, use the moon to find the planet Mercury. The bow of the moon points to Mercury’s place near the horizon at dusk and/or nightfall.
Now we return to Orion, the gem of all constellations. On old sky maps, the mighty Hunter of the ancient myths is seen poised with an upraised club and shield, as though fending off the raging Bull, Taurus.
Meanwhile, two meek animals seem to cower at the Hunter’s feet. Lepus the Hare was described by Roman stargazers as being “swift,” “light-footed,” and “eared.” Columba the Dove can be found to the south of the Hare. This little constellation is sometimes ignored in books about the sky, probably because it is so far south as seen from the U.S. Richard Hinckley Allen, in his classic book Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, wrote that Columba was first seen in constellation drawings in 1603. But, he said, there are hints in early writings that stargazers knew the name Columba, and identified a Dove here, as long as 17 centuries ago.