Winter Constellations in the Northern Hemisphere
Well OSU fans, it’s time to pull out the star charts and take a look at the winter constellations in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter sky is dominated by the awesome constellation, Orion and Orion can be used as the starting point for your winter constellation observing.
To find Orion in early winter, look southeast. You will easily find three stars that are lined up in a row. These are the stars in Orion’s belt. If you look to the lower right of the belt, you will come to a bright white star. This is Rigel which forms Orion’s knee. If you look to the upper left of the belt, you’ll find a bright orange star. This star is Betelgeuse, which some refer to as “Beetlejuice”. Congratulations! You’ve just identified Orion. From here, it is easy to find other major winter constellations.
Orion, the Hunter, is accompanied by two hunting dogs – Canis Major which includes the Sirius (the Dog Star) and Canis Minor which includes the star, Procyon. Finding Sirius is easy. It is the brightest star in the winter night sky. Follow the line of Orion’s belt to the the left. You won’t miss it. Sirius makes up the head of Canis Major, the Great Dog. Directly above Sirius is Procyon. To find it using Orion, locate the two stars that make up Orion’s shoulders and follow the line they create to the first bright star you find. That is Procyon. Now you’ve found both of Orion’s hunting dogs!
Now that you’ve gotten good at using Orion as your guide, it’s time to find Gemini. Follow the line that is formed between Rigel and Betelgeuse upwards. You will come to two lines of stars that are capped by two brighter stars. These are the twin stars Pollux (to the left) and Castor (to the right).
To find the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters, follow Orion’s belt to the right. You will pass just below a bright star called Aldebaran and see a small group of stars that form the Pleiades.
If you go back and locate Aldebaran, you will see a small group of five stars close by. This group is the main part of Taurus the Bull.
The last constellation to find on our journey is Auriga, or the Charioteer. This constellation is to the left of Taurus and can be found by lining up the left-most star in Orion’s belt with the bottom-most star in Orion and follow it upwards. You will see a very bright star. This star is called Capella which makes up the top of Auriga.
Winter is a great time to observe the night sky so bundle up and get out there!