Star-hop from Orion to Sirius, before they go

Dots and lines forming the constellation of Orion, with a red line and arrow star-hopping from Orion's belt to Sirius.
Star-hopping is going from stars you know … to stars you don’t know. On April evenings, you can look west after sunset to star-hop from the constellation Orion to the bright star Sirius. Chart via EarthSky.

Star-hop from Orion to Sirius

One very easy constellation to find at this time of the year is the magnificent Orion the Hunter, now descending in the west after sunset. It’s easy because Orion contains a very noticeable pattern of three medium-bright stars in a short straight row. These stars are known as Orion’s Belt. Find Orion, and continue the line of his belt to star-hop to Sirius. Found in the constellation Canis Major, this is the sky’s brightest star!

As Earth revolves around the sun, both the constellation Orion and the star Sirius are about to disappear for a while. They always drop into the sun’s glare shortly after this time of the year, as Earth’s motion brings the sun between us and them. So be sure to look for them while you can, soon after the sun goes down. We’ll see them again in the east before dawn, beginning around late July or early August.

Try it for yourself

People learning to recognize the stars often use star-hopping – going from stars and constellations they know to ones they don’t know – to find and recognize new stars and constellations. The use of Orion’s Belt to find Sirius is one of the best-known star-hops in the sky, because the stars are so bright and the pattern is so definite.

Another great star-hop to try is using the Big Dipper to find Polaris, the North Star. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, this star-hop will allow you to always find north!

The Big and Little Dipper with arrow showing how 2 stars from the Big Dipper point to Polaris.
Look for the Big and Little Dipper high in the northern sky on spring evenings. This view is for the Northern Hemisphere. The 2 outer stars in the bowl of the Dipper point to Polaris, the North Star. Polaris marks the end of the handle of the Little Dipper. Chart via EarthSky.
Purple sky full of stars with lines forming 2 axe-shaped figures.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Cecille Kennedy in Oregon shared this image with us on March 13, 2024. Cecille wrote: “Before midnight, pointing the camera straight up into the night sky, there is the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. When you are looking at Polaris, you are facing north. While other constellations move around, Polaris stays still as it’s found at the north celestial pole. Thus Polaris is a very useful star for navigators and sailors. The 2 front stars in the asterism of the Big Dipper are called Pointers because they point to the North Star or Polaris.” Thank you, Cecille!

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April 11, 2024

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