Using Orion as a Stargazing Signpost
Part of the Stargazing For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)
Orion is great signpost constellation to use for your stargazing. In fact, it may be the very best, because you can use the stars of Orion to find seven other constellations immediately around it.
The objects you can find using Orion as a signpost are:
Orion’s Belt to Canis Major: Picture Orion as a hunter standing upright, with the stars Betelgeuse and Bellatrix marking out his shoulders, and Saiph and Rigel marking out his feet. You can then follow the three stars of Orion’s Belt down and to the left to find the bright star Sirius (α Canis Majoris) in the constellation Canis Major, the Big Dog.
Orion’s shoulders to Canis Minor: Draw a line from Bellatrix through Betelgeuse and keep going to find a solitary bright star, Procyon, α Canis Minoris in the constellation Canis Minor, the Small Dog. Procyon is one of the brightest stars in the sky, so it stands out in this blank patch to Orion’s left.
Rigel and Betelgeuse to Gemini: Draw a line from Rigel up past Betelgeuse and keep going until you reach two bright stars shining side by side. These stars are Castor and Pollux, α and β Geminorum, in the constellation Gemini the twins.
Above Orion’s head to Auriga: Travelling up from Orion’s Belt between his two shoulders and past his head, you’ll soon come to the bright star Capella, α Aurigae, in the constellation Auriga the charioteer.
Orion’s Belt to Taurus: Going back to Orion’s Belt, your next target lies up and to the right, following the line of the belt to the bright star Aldebaran, α Tauri, in the constellation Taurus the Bull. If you keep on following this line, a short distance later you’ll reach the Seven Sisters, or the Pleiades, star cluster.
Orion’s right leg to Eridanus: Just to the right of Orion’s right foot, Rigel, you’ll find the first few dim stars in the huge meandering constellation of Eridanus the River. The rest of this constellation snakes down a great distance, ending at the bright star Achernar, not visible from the northern hemisphere.
Beneath Orion’s feet to Lepus: Directly beneath Orion’s feet, you’ll find the faint constellation of Lepus the Hare.
Between Canis Major and Minor to Monoceros: Another faint constellation lies in the seemingly blank part of the sky between Canis Major and Canis Minor. If you draw a line from Sirius to Procyon, then you’ll be passing through Monoceros.