When winter nights are clear, one constellation dominates the night sky. Its stars are all bright blue, with one single exception. It also forms the most recognized pattern in the sky after Ursa Major. It is visible from December until March. It is also home to both a dying star and the birthplace of new stars.
Orion was known in ancient times as a hunter. It was mentioned in Homer's Odyssey and the Iliad. It was also mentioned in the Bible in three different passages.
Orion is the major constellation of winter. Its outline forms the shape of a man. The star forming the belt on the celestial equator, making it visible worldwide. The star on the outer edges are all bright stars. Almost all the stars in the constellation are blueish white, the brightest and hottest of stars. 77 stars are visible with the unaided eye within the constellation of Orion. Most of the stars in the constellation are about the same distance from Earth.
Rigel is a bright blue star that makes up the lower right corner. It is the second brightest star in the constellation. Rigel is also a double star.
Betelgeuse marks the upper left boundary and is a super red giant star. If placed in our Sun’s position, it outer gas shells would extend past the orbit of Jupiter. It is in its last stages of its life. When it finally goes supernova, it will be as bright as the full moon.
Below the three ‘Belt’ stars is a fuzzy patch. When view with telescopes, the patch is very large and distinct in appearance. Called the Orion Nebula, it is the most imaged nebula of the sky. At the heart of the Orion Nebula is a group of faint stars. When viewed with a telescope, four to six stars can be seen. This group of stars is known as the Trapezium. With images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, protostars, or new stars are being formed. The Orion Nebula is one of the few nebulae that color can be detected with the eye when viewed with a medium size telescope.
Before the winter ends and the Moon is down, find some time to go outside to explore the wonders of the constellation Orion.