Although the planets Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are all still obvious to the naked eye, stretched out in a diagonal line across the southern sky, this is a great time of year to enjoy looking at one of the most famous constellations in the night sky – Orion, The Hunter.
As soon as the sky gets properly dark, look to the east and you’ll see this beautiful and striking pattern of stars above the horizon.
Orion is most famous for his “belt”, and this is the first part of the constellation you’ll see – a trio of three blue-white stars, all roughly the same brightness, arranged in a short line that tips down on the left. To the upper left of this Belt you’ll see a bright orange star, which is Betelgeuse, an enormous red giant star that would easily swallow up Earth’s orbit if it was put in the Sun’s place.
To the lower right of the Belt, diagonally opposite ruddy Betelgeuse, you’ll see a bright blue-white star. This is Rigel, another giant star, that is much more powerful and luminous than our own Sun.
Once Orion has cleared the horizon properly, around 10pm, you’ll see a short, faint almost vertical line of three stars beneath Orion’s Belt, on the left.
This is Orion’s Sword, and if you look at the middle star through binoculars you’ll see it’s not actually a star but a fuzzy cloud. This is the Orion Nebula, a huge cloud of gas and dust, far, far away in space, where stars are being born.
By midnight Orion is at its best, striding across the southern sky.
Then you’ll see that Orion’s Belt points down towards a very bright blue-white star.
This is Sirius, the Dog Star, and it’s the brightest star in the whole sky.