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  • Chris Baker

What's Up? - February 2021

Each month I highlight a few objects you can spot in the night sky without the need for optical equipment. Here are the exciting things for February!

This month the planets are not putting on much of a show, so I thought I'd do it differently and focus on one things in particular- the spectacular constellation of Orion.

See if you can spot it this month and some fo the features highlighted right here. Let me know!

Basic map of the Constellation Orion

Orion is Greek mythology is the Hunter - so here he is:

Courtesy of Stellarium

Where to Look?

Orion is a winter constellation and when I first spot it from my home north of London in early November I know the cold weather is on its way. It is easily visible throughout February too - just look mid evening onwards - in the South-West. It is a super sight and there are many interesting features to observe with the naked eye.

Courtesy of Stellarium

Betelgeuse is the bright star on his top left hand shoulder. It really does look red so you should be able to see it clearly. It was in the news last year as it suddenly dimmed. There is much speculation as to why this happened. The star is a red giant and will one day explode as a supernova. It could happen any time in the next few million years so get out there tonight and have a look so as not to miss it!

Rigel is a beautiful star too- the bottom right hand corner at his foot. This you will see as a bright blue star.

Orion's Belt and the Nebula

Courtesy of Stellarium

The three stars across the centre make up his belt. They are Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. You should be able to spot these quite easily.

The Orion Nebula is a well-known object visible to the naked eye. It appears just below the 3 stars of his belt as a fuzzy blob, defined as his sword.

This Nebula is approx. 1,400 light years away. The object is at least 20 light years across, making it a massive nebula. Objects such as this are star forming regions, where new stars are being created from the ionized gasses, plasma heat and dust.

To best see it look slightly to the side of it - 'averted vision' this helps your eyes to see faint objects at night. if you have binoculars then so much the better!

Here are the two images I have taken of the Orion Nebula. (Don't expect to see it like this with the naked eye!)

You can see it here on my web site

You can see it here on my web site.

Finally look to the left and lower down on the horizon and you will see the bright star Sirius, also known as the Dog Star - Canis Majoris The Hunter's dog!

It is the brightest star in our night sky.

Enjoy the night sky this month and let me know about your observations of Orion -I'd love to hear.

Thank you for reading this blog and do let me know if there is anything you would like me to add to my Newsletter each month.

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