Sunday, January 6, 2013

How To Find The Brightest Star in the Northern Night Sky.

In the night sky, there are about 2000 to 2500 stars that can be seen with the eye alone. The exact number visible will depend on a number of conditions including the quality of your eyesight, whether you have allowed sufficient time for your eyes to adjust to the dark, the amount of light from the moon and other 'light pollution' from things like streetlights and the quality of the air.

The mountain environment provides an ideal place to view the night sky because there is much less 'light pollution' and the air is clearer. Once you are able to see stars, you can begin to find the constellations they have been arranged into like Orion.

It is a great time for star gazing at the moment with Orion 'The Hunter' visible to the south. The two brightest stars of Orion are Betelgeuse (top left shoulder) and Rigel (bottom left leg).  3 stars make a belt around Orion's middle with another line of stars (and the Orion Nebula) descending from the belt, forming a sword.

The 3 stars that make up Orion's Belt can be used to find Sirius which is the brightest star in the Northern night sky. If you extend the line through the 3 belt stars downwards this will help you find Sirius in the constellation Canis Major (meaning Big Dog) which is why Sirius is sometimes called 'The Dog Star'. Once you have located Betelgeuse and Sirius it is not too difficult to find Procyon.

Sirius, Betelgeuse and Procyon (in the constellation Canis Minor - Little Dog) are 3 of the brightest stars in the Northern night sky and together they form a triangle called The Winter Triangle.

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