The End of the Hunting Season for Orion
With winter finally ending and although I will not miss the cold & wet, I will miss this constellation, my favourite by far Orion the Hunter.
So before it falls completely out of sight I want to run through the stars that make up this constallation.
How to find Orion
Orion will come into view shortly after dusk and will be visible until around 1am. The constellation is fairly easy to identify. Look South the line of 3 stars that make up orions belt should be visible straight away.
Orion has the shape of a man with a sword and a bow, and in fairness in this constellation you can see how the greeks imagined the shape of a hunter. UnlikeÂ constellations that don’t seem to bear any resemblance to their names (I’m looking at you canis minor).
There are some very interesting features of Orion, Below are the main elements labeled.
So lets start at the top and take a closer look at each of these elements.
This is a red supergiant. This star is so massive in fact that if it were at theÂ center of our solar system its surface would expand out as far asÂ Jupiter.
If there is one star in the sky to keep an eye this is the one. It is predicted that this star is approaching the end of its life and when this happens it will explode into a massive supernova. This will be visible day and night,
In fact some predications say that the supernova could be so bright that you will be able to read by its light at night. This supernova could happen tomorrow or in two million years time. So you know keep an eye out.
Meissa means “white spot” or “shining”. This star signifies the head of the hinter Orion. The star is a young, hot and massive. It is located 1000 light years from earth and is about 25 times the mass of the Sun. You can tell the age of the stars from the colour of light they emit. This star emits a blusih-white colour which signifies it is very hot and young, whereas Betelgeuse emits a red star which signifies it is cooler and an old star.
Bellatrix is the third brightest star in Orion and is another massive star, this time about 8.4 times the mass of the Sun. The star is about 20 million years old and consumed all the hydrogen at its core. This begins the sequence of turning it into a giant star. Bellatrix also plays a starring role in Harry Potter, the death eaters are named after it. The translation actually means “Female Warrior”.
Alnitak is the first star we visit on the famous Orion belt. This ia a hot blue supergiant (you know its hot because it looks blue). This star is 736 light years from Earth and is another massive star. It is 28 times the mass of the Sun. This is actually a triple star system but it is the primary star that we see due to its size and brightness.
Also my favourite Nebula the Horsehead nebula is just of to the south of this star. I will cover this in a later post.
So many supergiant stars in the Orion constellation and this is another one. It is the 30th brightest star in the sky and is the second or middle star in Orions belt. It is a blue-white star but within in the next million years or so it will turn into a Red Supergiant. and eventually explode as a supernova.
Mintaka is the last star in Orions belt and is about 900 light years from Earth. This is actually a multiple star, made up of 4 stars but for now lets concentrate on the main component which contains 2 stars that orbit each other every 5.73 days. Both are about 90,000 times as luminous as the Sun.
Saiph is the bttom left star of the constellation of Orion. It is located 650 light years from Earth. Even though it is almost the same distance from us as Rigel and is a much hotter star it appears dimmer as it emits most od its light in the ultraviolet specturm, which is invisible to the Human eye. This is another enormous star with a radius 22 times that of the sun.
I have talked about Rigel in another post .The star is easy to spot, It is located in the lower right corner of the great winter constellation Orion. It is a very bright and blue-white in colour.
Do not confuse Rigel with Sirius, which is farther to the east and south. Sirius is similar in appearance but significantly brighter than Rigel.
At magnitude 0.18, Rigel is the seventh brightest star in the sky, It is a blue supergiant and is located 773 light years from Earth.
The M42 Nebula is one of the few Nebulas you can see with the naked eye. It is very impressiveÂ whenÂ viewed through a telescope but really comes to life in photographs. The human eye is just not sensitive enough to pick up the faint colours of the nebula.
M42 is a diffuse nebula and is estimated to be 24 light years across. It is a stellar nursery where new stars are being born.