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The Constellation of Orion defines the
winter sky in Northern Ireland but who was the Mythical Orion and what
mysteries does the constellation hold?
This is how the constellation has been drawn in antiquity, a mighty man
holding a large club in one hand and a lion skin and mane in the other. Prominent also his belt defined by three
stars and a sword.
The constellation is in reality a
three-dimensional arrangement with Alnitak about half the distance from earth
as Alnilam. Image from NASA site.
Orion is a great constellation for
pointing to other constellations.
Orion’s two dogs, Canis Major defined by the brightest star in the
sky,Sirius, and Canis Minor defined by Procyon start an arc through Castor and
Pollux the brightest stars in Gemini to Capella in Auriga. Orion’s belt points to Aldebaran in ‘horns’
of Torus the bull, and on to the Pleiades.
Orion deserves a great deal of viewing
time. Replete with double and triple stars
too numerous for this brief examination, the constellation is most famous for
Betelgeuse [a variable star] the red giant star defining Orion’s left shoulder
(as viewed). Rigel is a dazzling blue
white. On clear night the main
attraction of Iron has to be the Great Nebula M42. This is a star factory, where dense interstellar
gas is condensing and brand new stars are born. Visible in larger telescopes
the horsehead nebula just below Alnitak.
Note the fuzzy in the belt - the great
orion nebula This photo from John McConnell
Great Orion Nebula M42 in visible
light. Hubble Space Telescope
NASA. From Google.com/images/orion
Great Orion Nebula M42 in Infra Red
showing the ‘trapezium’ of four stars (including
Zeta Orionis) illuminating the dust cloud with ultra violet light. Infra Red light penetrates the dust clouds
and this enables us to see thousands of
newly created stars being generated from within the dust and gas clouds. ESO image.
The trapezium and nebula taken by the
author from Magherafelt. Nikon Coolpix 995 camera with 8 seconds
exposure. OMC200 (8”) / Vixen GPDX mount.
Orion Nebula M42. Coolpix 995 camera with
1minute single exposure Noise Reduction OFF.
From Google.com/images/orion. Belt stars with the Horsehead nebula just visible
Orion in an Aurora from Magherafelt -
taken by the Author
Orion from Magherafelt - By Author Nikon Coolpix 995 - 8 seconds.
Good Example of Step Focus ‘Spectroscopy’
Spot the Red Giant, Brilliant Blue White star and the Great Nebula.
Top left Betelgeux (Red Giant) Top right Rigel (Blue White) bottom left theta orionis (violet) bottom right a small star hidden behind the
nebula cloud (Misty!). These were
created using the wedge of the atmosphere as the spectrometer prism. The stars were low on the Horizon - 20-30
degrees, just out of the mist and pollution layer on the horizon. The star images are tightly ‘cropped’ with a
cropping tool and enlarged. Effective
Nice deepsky Orion image. Note the gas nebula sweeping a reddish arc -
this is Barnard’s Loop.
The Best Image I have seen on
Google/images/orion An astonishing
image showing the thousands of stars in the Orion arm of the Milky Way Spiral Galaxy. Amazing what can be achieved with a 50mm
lens! Try this with a German Equatorial
Mount and your favourite camera - expect several hours of exposure.