Getting Orion’s belt

Position of Betelgeuse in the constellation of...

Image via Wikipedia

If Orion took off his belt, would his pants fall down?

Nobody, really knows because he’s been too busy putting on a show as a major winter time constellation for thousands of years.

If you go outside on a clear night in February, and look south you’ll see seven bright stars that make up this great hunter.

Look for stars Betelgeuse that make up Orion’s left shoulder and move clockwise to Bellatrix, Rigel – Star Trek’s captain Kirk’s home planet – and Orionis. The three stars that make up Orion’s signature belt from upper right are Mintaka, Alnilam and Anitak. 

The constellation is full of astronomical wonders such as the Horse Head Nebulae, Betelgeuse a variable star and Mintaka a double star.  

Since ancient people didn’t have TV, they would make up soap opera characters in the night sky.  The script in Orion went along like this.

Orion fell in love with the Pleiades or the seven sisters.  This group of star can be found by following Orion’s belt to the right to the bright star Aldebaran, which is the eye in Taurus. If you follow past this V shaped constellation of five stars you’ll find the Pleiades.  

Initially, you might think that it’s a cloud of stars, but if you look closer you might see five or six stars. A look at them with binoculars is spectacular.

Now, Orion was in love with all the seven sisters — yes all of them — but they didn’t feel the same way towards him.  So they sat on the back of Taurus the bull that protected them. Poor Orion had to protect himself against the charging beast and asked the gods for help.

Hearing Orion’s pleas the gods sent two hunting dogs Siruis and Procyen. Sirius, the dog star is found by drawing a straight line from the left side of Orion’s belt and is the nose of Canis Major, the big dog. Look up and you’ll see the little dog star, Procyon in Canis Minor.

But the two dogs didn’t help Orion much because they would spend their days chasing a unicorn, the constellation Monoceros and a rabbit, the constellation Eridanus.

Sounds like a familiar TV script doesn’t it? Check out the one minute Star Gazer video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nt55P0ynsmk for a more details.

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About Mario Carr

Mario Carr has a Physics degree from McMaster University and hosts this blog. He is the director of public education for the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers and has helped to raise the profile of the group. He writes an astronomy column and appears on CHCH-TV to talk about the night sky. Mario is the founder of the Carr Marketing Group in Burlington, Ontario and can help with your marketing, communications, publicity and public relations needs. He can be reached at www.carrmarketinggroup.com or mariocarr@cogeco.ca.
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