Stop #2 – The Orion Constellation

Orion Constellation

The Orion Constellation

Just as one can look up in the sky and see faces or bunny rabbits in the clouds, the peoples of the Earth have looked up at the stars for milenia and seen shapes.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has divided up the night sky into 88 areas called constellations, in order to make it easier to refer to parts of the sky. Constellations could be thought of like countries- each covers a certain area of the sky, and has a name, and in each area, a handful of the brightest stars form a shape.

36 of those 88 constellations lie predominantly in the northern sky, and with a little practice, it’s not hard to spot them.

We’ll start with Orion. The Orion Constellation is composed of 7 main stars- three we already learned are Orion’s belt. The other four are his arms and legs. It’s easiest to think of Orion standing with his back to us, so his right arm and leg are on our right.

Orion's Arms and Feet

Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Saiph, and Rigel

1) His RIGHT FOOT is RIGEL (rye-gel). Rigel is the brightest star in the Orion constellation. It’s also the seventh brightest star in all of the night sky, so it’s a good one to know. Rigel is Arabic for “the foot of the great one”. It actually pulsates periodically, and it’s 130,000 times brighter than our sun and 74x wider, and about 860 ly (light-years) from us.

2) His Left Foot is Saiph (sighf). The name comes from the Arabic “saif al jabbar” ( ‘سیف الجبّار’ ), or “sword of the giant”. It’s hotter, but less bright than Rigel.

3) His Left hand is Betelgeuse (beetle-juice). Betelgeuse is the 9th-brightest star in the entire night sky.

4) His Right Hand is Bellatrix. That’s Latin for “female warrior”. She’s the twenty-seventh brightest star in the night sky.