Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science
At this time of year, the famous constellation Orion is descending in the southwest to west in the hours after sunset. Orion is noticeable for its bright stars and its distinctive pattern on the sky’s dome. Look for three stars in a short, straight row. Then look for Betelgeuse and Rigel, Orion’s brightest stars. If you didn’t come to know it this winter, check it out now. It is one of the most distinctive of all star patterns.
On today’s chart, I have marked the location of a cloud in interstellar space . . . located in the direction to Orion. Binoculars or small telescopes reveal the beautiful Orion Nebula, which is otherwise known as M42, if you have a dark-enough sky. Will you spot the nebula in a twilight or early evening sky on these April evenings? The only way to know for sure is to look.
If you do find the Orion Nebula in early evening now, you will spot it in the middle of a curved line of stars that appears attached to Orion’s Belt. This curved line is the Sword of Orion. The Orion Nebula looks to the eye like a hazy “star” in the Sword. However, the slightest optical aid reveals much more.
Written by Deborah Byrd
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