Tuesday 19 September 2017 - 22:12:52 Posted by  Bobby

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 The Night Skies of January

 The evening skies of January are the most magnificent of the year, with Orion surrounded by a host of bright stars, including Sirius, the brightest of all. From southern latitudes, Canopus, the second brightest star, and the nearby small galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud add to the richness of the scene.

 Top 2 Constellations For January

 Orion (The Hunter)


Mythology of Orion

Orion is the most magnificent of all the constellations. Being positioned on the celestial equator, it is visible from most places on Earth. It represents a hunter with his dogs (marked by Canis Major and Canis Minor) at his heels. In Greek mythology, Orion was the son of Poseidon, the sea god. He was supppsedly killed by the sting of a scorpion, and his position in the sky is such that he sets as the scorpion (the constellation Scorpius) rises. According to another story, Orion became enamored of a group of nymphs called the Pleiades, depicted by a star cluster in the adjoing constellation of Taurus. As the Earth turns, Orion seems to chase the Pleiades across the sky. The constellation contains several bright stars, but its most celebrated feature is the huge nebula (M42) that lies within the hunters sword, south of the line of the three stars marking his belt.

 Orion Details

 Orion rises around 8:30 p.m. in the southeast, then climbs high in the southerly sky, setting in the west at sunrise. This constellation was noted by astronomers in the earliest time period. To the ancients, the pattern of stars gave the impression of a giant Hunter, holding up a club against the charging bull of Taurus - which is the constellation to the right. The red star Alderbaran appears to be the eye of the bull.

 Across the center of the constellation, three diagonally arranged stars appear to form the belt of the hunter. It is the hunter's sword, hanging below, that appears to weigh down the belt on one side. Here is found the Orion Nebula (M42), a great interstellar gas cloud where new stars are formed. The Orion Nebula contains over 700 young stars in various stages of formation. It is visible as a fuzzy object at the lower end of Orion's sword. Viewed with binoculars on a clear night, the fuzzy outline of the nebula distinguishes it from the other stars.

 Betelgeuse, at the hunters shoulder, is a red giant, and one of the largest stars in the night sky. Diagonally opposite it lies Rigel, a blue white supergiant that burns some six times hotter than our own Sun. Both stars appear at approximately magnitude 0.8 (a measure of their brilliance). Brighter still is Sirius. It is in fact the most brilliant star in the night sky, and lies to the left and below Orion in the constellation of Canis Major (the Great Dog. Sirius is now known to be a double star with a small and dim white dwarf orbiting around it's much brighter twin. The two stars take 50 years to complete an orbit around each other.

Orion Facts

  • Depiction: The Hunter
  • Pronounced: Oh-RYE-un
  • Genitive: Orionis
  • Abbreviation: Ori
  • Highest in the Sky: December to January
  • Size Ranking: 26th
  • Coverage Area: 594 Sq. Degrees
  • Right Acension: 5 hours
  • Declination:
  • Visibility: 75°N to 65°S

 Notable Objects

  • Alpha Orionis: Red supergiant
  • IC 434: Horsehead Nebula
  • M42: Orion Nebula
  • NGC 1981: Open cluster
  • Trapezium: Nebula
  • Zeta Orionis: Double star

 Named Stars

  • Betelgeuse, Alpha Orionis
  • Rigel, Beta Orionis
  • Bellatrix, Gamma Orionis
  • Mintaka, Delta Orionis
  • Alnilam, Epsilon Orionis
  • Alnitak, Zeta Orionis
  • Saiph, Kappa Orionis
  • Meissa, Lambda Orionis

 Best Viewed Objects/Stars

Alpha Orionis (Betelgeuse)

 A red supergiant star of variable brightness ranging from about magnitude 0 to 1.3 every 6 years or so. It lies 430 light-years away. The name Betelgeuse is derived from an Arabic term that incorporates a reference to a hand, although the star actually lies on the hunter's shoulder.

Beta Orionis (Rigel)

 A blue supergiant star of magnitude 0.2, the brightest star in the constellation and the seventh brightest in the sky. It is 770 light-years away. The name Rigel is derived from an Arabic word meaning "foot," which is the part of the hunter's body that the star represents.

Theta-1 Orionis (The Trapezium)

 A multiple star, located at the heart of the Orion Nebula. A small telescope shows its a quadruple star with components of magnitudes 5.1, 6.7, and 8.0 arranged in a trapezium shape. A larger aperture reveals two other 11th-magnitude stars in the group.

Theta-2 Orionis

 A double star. The two stars, magnitudes 5.0 and 6.4, are divisible through binoculars. Theta-2 also forms a wide, bright binocular double with Theta-1 Orionis.

Iota Orionis

 A double star. The two components of magnitudes 2.8 and 7.0 can be split with a small telescope. Binoculars show another double nearby: called Struve 747, it consists of stars of magnitudes 4.8 and 5.7.

Sigma Orionis

 A remarkable multiple star. The main star of magnitude 3.8 has two 7th-magnitude companions to one side and a 9th-magnitude companion on the other. A faint triple star, called Struve 761, should be visible in the same telescopic field of view.

M42 (The Orion Nebula)

 One of the most spectacular objects in the sky. It is a cloud of glowing gas with an apparent diameter of over twice that of the full Moon. Visible to the naked eye, it becomes larger and more complex when viewed with binoculars or telescopes of increasing aperture. It is 1,500 light-years away and is lit up by the stars of the Trapezium Orionis, that lie within it. A northern extension of the nebula is known as M43.

NGC 1981

 A large, scattered open cluster visible with binoculars, its brightest stars being of 6th magnitude. The cluster appears to the north of the Orion Nebula and lies at almost the same distance from us, 1,300 light-years.

Horsehead Nebula

 A dark nebula shaped like a chess knight, seen silhouetted against a strip of brighter nebulosity that extends south from Zeta Orionis. However, it is too faint to be viewed without a large telescope, and its shape is most easily seen on a long-exposure photograph.

 Lepus (The Hare)


 Mythology of Lepus

Lepus lies under the feet of Orion, the hunter, and is persued across the sky by his dog Canis Major. The constellation was known to the ancient Greeks. Its brightest star is Alpha Leonis, magnitude 2.6, whose name, Arneb, comes from an Arabic term meaning "the hare."

 The Facts

  • Depiction: The Hare
  • Pronounced: LLEE-pus
  • Genitive: Leporis
  • Abbreviation: Lep
  • Highest in the Sky: January
  • Size Ranking: 51st
  • Coverage Area: 290 Sq. Degrees
  • Right Acension: 6 hours
  • Declination: -20°
  • Visibility: 63°N to 90°S

 Notable Objects

  • IC 418: Spirograph Nebula
  • M79: Globular cluster
  • NGC 2017: Open cluster
  • R Leporis: Variable star

 Named Stars

  • Arneb, Alpha Leporis
  • Nihal, Gamma Leporis

 Best Viewed Objects/Stars

Gamma Leporis

 A Mira variable noted for its deep red color. It ranges from about 6th to 12th magnitude every 14 months or so.

R Leporis

 A Mira variable noted for its deep red color. It ranges from about 6th to 12th magnitude every 14 months or so.


 A small globular cluster of 8th magnitude, visible with a small telescope. It lies about 40,000 light-years away. In the same field of view is a triple star called h3752 (the h stands for John Herschel, who first cataloged it). This consists of a close pair of stars 5th and 7th magnitudes.

NGC 2017

 A small star cluster, the main members of which are cataloged as the multiple star h3780. A small telescope reveals a 6th-magnitude star with four companions of 8th to 10th magnitude. A larger aperture will separate two of the components into close doubles, and there is also a fainter 12th-magnitude star that completes this group.

 Features of Interest (Dec/Jan)

 M42, The Orion Nebula

 This diffuse nebula forms part of the sword that hangs from Orion's belt. It is one of the most celebrated objects in the entire sky and the most prominent of all nebula, being visible to the naked eye under good conditions as a hazy, milky white or greenish patch, although it is better seen with binoculars. A huge cloud of dust and gas, M42 consists mainly of hydrogen gas, which shows as a reddish color on photographs. It glows by the light of a star that formed within it Theta-1 Orionis, also called the Trapezium since it in fact consists of four stars visible through a small telescope.

 Pleiades Star Cluster

 The ancient Greeks recognized the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, as the children of Atlas (the Titan condemned to hold up the heavens) and Pleione, daughter of Oceanus. The sisters are Alcyone, Asterope, Taygeta, Celaeno, Electra, Merope and in the center Maia. The Seven Sisters are actually eight as Asterope is a double star. Their blue veil is a passing dust cloud.

 Hyades Star Cluster

 The Hyades cluster is easy to find by using Orion's Belt, a compact and noticeable line of three blue-white stars in the constellation Orion the Hunter. Draw a line westward (generally toward your sunset direction) through the Belt stars, and you will come to the bright ruddy star Aldebaran, the Bull's fiery red eye.

 Orions Belt


 The three stars at the center of this picture form a distinctive line that marks the belt of Orion, the hunter. They are (from left to right): Delta Orionis (also known as Mintaka), Epsilon Orionis (Alnilam) and Zeta Orionis (Alnitak).

 Meteor Shower Activity

January Meteor Showers
(The Quadrantids)

  This shower, visible to Northern Hemisphere observers only, appears in the first week of January, radiating from northern Bootes, near the Big Dipper's handle. This area was once known as the constellation of Quadrants, hence the showers name. Activity reaches about 100 meteors an hour on January 3 and 4, but the peak is short-lived, the meteors are usually faint, and the radiant does not rise very high until after midnight.

 Also Visible This Month

 Where to?

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