Thursday, March 6, 2014

Orion - By Contributing Astronomy Editor, Dan Matlaga


There are problems with the mainstream interpretation of the constellation Orion.

The problems and a possible solution will be addressed this month in a series of submissions.

For now, I would like to identify some of the constellations under consideration. 

The easiest way to identify a constellation occurs with the assistance of the moon. 

The diagram shows the position of the moon at 7:30 for several evenings.

March 06
The moon is before the stars of Taurus the bull.  Note the tiny cluster of seven stars to the north, or above the moon.  The cluster is known as the Pleiades or the seven sisters.

March 07
Immediately to the right and below the moon is a cluster of stars known as the Hyades star cluster.  It forms a distinctive "V" and forms part of the face of Taurus.

March 08
This evening the moon is just below the tip of the horn of Taurus.  There is a star to mark the tip of the horn, but the light from the moon makes it a difficult star to see.  Binoculars will help.  Note the moon is above three bright stars that form the belt of Orion.  The stars are quite bright and should be visible to the unaided eye.  It is important to our story that you can identify the three stars of the belt.

March 09
As depicted in our illustration, the Moon is now in front of Castor's lower leg.  Castor is one of the twins that make the constellation of Gemini.  The bright star like object above the moon is the planet Jupiter

March 10
Although the moon is still before the constellation Gemini, in one night it has moved to the right kneecap of Pollux, the other twin of Gemini.  To the south of the moon is the star Procyon, and even further south is Sirius, is the brightest star to the unaided eye in the night sky.

The brightening moon interferes with our ability to find these constellations.  We will have to wait until the 19th of March when moonlight no longer interferes to address the problems of Orion.

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