Tonight, look for Bellatrix, the third-brightest star in Orion. Although often overlooked in contrast to Orion’s two brightest stars – Betelgeuse and Rigel – Bellatrix is a wonderful star. You can see it tonight, despite the evening moonlight.
The classic book on star names is Richard Hinckley Allen’s Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning. The book suggests the Latin name Bellatrix means Female Warrior, and that some find that name odd since the original Arabic title translates as Conqueror. But women understand. Bellatrix represents Orion’s left shoulder. Although it appears only as the 22nd brightest star in our sky, in reality it’s a hot, blue giant some 240 light-years away.
Also look for the the star Saiph. The four stars Betelgeuse, Rigel, Bellatrix and Saiph form the familiar rectangle of Orion. The name Saiph comes from the Arabic name meaning the Sword of the Giant. Saiph is a blazing hot supergiant star 720 light-years away.
The constellation Orion takes center stage this month and rightly so. With so many bright stars, it’s one of the most prominent constellations in the sky. You’ll find Orion climbing over the eastern horizon around 7 to 8 p.m. local time.
Bottom line: Rigel and Betelgeuse are Orion’s brightest stars. We briefly describe 2 more bright stars in Orion, Bellatrix and Saiph.
Larry Sessions has written many favorite posts in EarthSky's Tonight area. He's a former planetarium director in Little Rock, Fort Worth and Denver and an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He's a longtime member of NASA's Solar System Ambassadors program. His articles have appeared in numerous publications including Space.com, Sky & Telescope, Astronomy and Rolling Stone. His small book on world star lore, Constellations, was published by Running Press.