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In the night sky: Orion
In the night sky: Orion

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1.1.3 Finding Orion

Monica and Janet found Orion, now it’s your turn.

A photograph of the night sky.
Figure 4 Orion seen in winter in the northern hemisphere.

In Figure 4, you’ll see an image of the night sky in winter in the northern hemisphere. Orion is very easy to identify because of the distinctive line of three stars which form his belt.

Now it is your turn to find Orion. Go outside, and look upwards, you should be able to see Orion somewhere in the sky. Where Orion actually is will depend on the time of night and where you live.

You could use the star wheel you made or the Stellarium app you downloaded in Map of the night sky to help. If you can’t see anything, maybe because it is raining, or cloudy, then try again another evening.

Make a note of where the lowermost star in the belt is, relative to a local marker. For example, is it just above a branch of a tree? Or just to the left of a chimney pot?

If you can, take a picture of what you can see. To get a good photo, use a good camera such as an SLR, on a tripod on long exposure setting. The camera on a smartphone may not be able to capture light from a star, but give it a go if you don’t have a camera. You could watch Monica’s advice about taking photos of stars [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Pick a time and a place to take your picture that you can go back to each week. You will repeat this activity each week. If you can take the picture at the same time, by the end of the course, you will have seen that Orion ‘moves’ in the sky.

A photograph of the night sky.
Figure 5 Orion, seen from Weston Underwood at 9.45 pm on 13 December 2014.

Here is an example, taken from the village of Weston Underwood, just north of Milton Keynes, at 9.45 pm on 13 December 2014. You can see the tree and the telephone wires in the image which can be used as a marker.

You might like to share your images via social media. If using Twitter, try using the hashtag #OLOrion to share your images and compare them with other people studying this course.