Sky ArchiveTonight

Use Orion’s Belt to find other stars

Orion's Belt: Star chart of large constellation Orion with stars labeled.
Look east in the mid-evening in November and December for the constellation Orion the Hunter. The 3 stars at the midsection of the Hunter are known as Orion’s Belt. Chart via Chelynne Campion/ EarthSky.

Tonight look for Orion the Hunter, the most noticeable of all constellations. Then use Orion’s three super-noticeable Belt stars to identify other bright stars. The bright waning gibbous moon might obstruct your view of Orion and the stars tonight, but the moon will rise approximately an hour later with each passing night. So in a few more days you can view Orion in a dark, moonless sky!

Use Orion’s Belt of three sparkling blue-white stars to locate Orion’s two brightest stars, ruddy Betelgeuse and blue-white Rigel.

Look at the chart at the top of this post. Betelgeuse is to the north of Orion’s Belt, while Rigel is on the opposite side, about an equal distance south of Orion’s Belt.

No matter where you are on Earth now, Orion will rise above your eastern horizon in early evening. It’ll parade westward across your sky throughout the night. Orion transits (reaches his highest elevation above the horizon) around the middle of the night. In the hours before dawn, the giant figure is seen over your western horizon.

The sky chart at top shows Orion’s position for around early-to-mid evening, as viewed from mid-northern latitudes. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, the Mighty Hunter lords over your southern sky around midnight, standing tall and proud. This is in stark contrast to his appearance at mid-evening, when Orion first rises above the eastern horizon. He then assumes a reclining position.

Okay, ready to identify two more stars, using Orion’s Belt?

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Orion’s Belt points in one direction to Aldebaran in Taurus, and in the other direction to Sirius in Canis Major.

Draw a line through Orion’s Belt toward the ruddy star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus the Bull. Going in the opposite direction, Orion’s Belt points to Sirius in Canis Major the Greater Dog – sometimes called the Dog Star – brightest star in the nighttime sky.

Have fun!

Bottom line: Use Orion’s Belt to find four bright stars – Betelgeuse and Rigel in Orion – Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull and Sirius in Canis Major.

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December 5, 2017
Sky Archive

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