Home > Constellations, Ephemeris Program, Star Names > 02/17/2017 – Ephemeris – The stars of the Belt of Orion

02/17/2017 – Ephemeris – The stars of the Belt of Orion

February 17, 2017

Ephemeris for Friday, February 17th.  The Sun will rise at 7:39.  It’ll be up for 10 hours and 35 minutes, setting at 6:14.  The Moon, 1 day before last quarter, will rise at 1:15 tomorrow morning.

Let’s take a closer look at the central constellation of the winter sky, the giant hunter Orion.  His most remarkable feature in his Belt of three stars in a straight line.  It’s the brightest, straightest and most equidistant line of stars I know of.  It points down and left to the brightest star Sirius the dog star and up to the right of Aldebaran the angry bloodshot eye in Taurus the bull.  The star names as taught to me by Grand Rapids Public Museum curator Evelyn Grebel in my youth in the 1950s was from left to right Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.  All the names reference a belt or girdle.   Alnitak lights up a faint cloud that can sometimes be glimpsed with binoculars called the Flame Nebula,  Just below it and invisible except in photographs is the Horsehead Nebula.

Times are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Orion's named stars

Orion’s named stars including the belt stars. Created using Stellarium.

Orion's Belt

Orion’s belt stars showing the nebulae illuminated by Alnitak. The Flame Nebula above left of it and the Horsehead Nebula below.  At this scale the horse’s head figure appears as a dark  bump into the left edge of the red glow.

The Horsehead Nebula

The Horsehead Nebula: On the left in visible light from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, while the image on the right is from the Hubble Space Telescope’s near infrared camera. Infrared light penetrated dust and gas better than visible light. This image is rotated about 90 degrees counterclockwise from the above image.

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