The majestic constellation Orion the hunter is a familiar celestial friend to stargazers in the Shamokin night sky during the winter. I never get tired of looking at it, even in light-polluted skies. As soon as twilight fades, it dominates the southeastern sky with all of its bright stars and celestial treasures, both bright and faint. It’s not difficult to see how ancient Greeks and Romans envisioned Orion as the mighty nocturnal hermit hunter. To me, it also resembles a bowtie or an hourglass in the eastern heavens. Orion is easy to recognize because of the three bright stars in a row that make up his belt: Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.
Last week in Starwatch, I featured the great Orion Nebula, visible even to the naked eye. It’s a colossal cloud of hydrogen gas more than 1,500 light-years away, where hundreds and hundreds of young stars have and will be born. This week I want to tell you about Orion the hunter’s brightest stars, Rigel and Betelgeuse, anchored at opposite corners of Orion. They are the fourth and fifth brightest stars in our skies.