Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Hunter and the Hexagon

February is a good time to be star gazing because there are many interesting constellations to see. Looking south around 9 P.M. the constellation of Orion (The Hunter) is easy to spot.

The Constellation of Orion

This is my favourite constellation. Unlike many constellations, it really does look like its title. A hunter with raised club, a shield and a belt from which hangs a sword. Orion can be used to help spot the Winter Hexagon. This is an imaginary hexagon formed by 6 of the brightest stars in the Night Sky.

Star 1: Rigel from Orion (The Hunter.)
Star 2: Alderbarren from Taurus (The Bull.) This is found by extending a line through the 3 stars that make up Orions Belt upwards. Alderbarren (sometimes called the Bulls Eye) is a reddish star.
Star 3. Sirius from Canis Major (The Large Dog.) This is found by extending a line through the 3 stars that make up Orions Belt downwards. Sirius is the brightest star in the Night Sky.
Star 4. Pollux from Gemini (The Twins.)
Star 5. Procyon from Canis Minor (The Small Dog.)
Star 6. Capella from Auriga (The Charioteer.)

The Winter Hexagon and The Milky Way
Another shape to look out for in the same area of the sky is the Winter Triangle. This is found by joining Betelgeuse (from Orion), Sirius and Procyon.

The Milky Way (Galaxy), which is the galaxy our solar system is part of, runs vertically through the Hexagon.

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet, of a humdrum star, lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe, in which there are far more galaxies than people.
Carl Sagan

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