Planetary Forecast March 2012
This months report of the Sky at Night above Kinver, from KinverOnLines’ Astromoner, Anthalus…….
“Most people will recognise the constellation of Orion in the night sky as it is one of the most prominent but how many have looked more closely and seen that it is more than a wierd shape in the sky?
Even with the naked eye you can tell Orion is more than a series of white dots. The upper left star which forms Orions right shoulder is called Betelgeuse (I pronounce this Beetle Juice but have heard many interpretations). Betelgeuse is noticeably orange, this is not pollution in our atmosphere but an indicator of age and size as older smaller stars are much cooler, a great example to compare this with is the star opposite in the constellation at the lower right. This is Rigel, a blue supergiant star with far more fuel to burn Rigel is much hotter than Betelgeuse but due to this will not live for nearly as long.
By far the most interesting feature of Orion for me is the Sword this can just be seen by eye on a clear night and is situated below the central star of his belt as a small patch of fairly faint stars. Bringing even the most basic binoculars to bear makes a huge difference and you see a group of bright stars illuminating a curtain of gas and dust, this is the Orion Nebula where new stars are being born. The image gets more amazing the better the equipment you use, I treated myself to an 8″ Newtonian scope recently and the nebula is spectacular through it, looking forward to expanding my kit to include a digital SLR camera to enable long exposure photos to uncover the colours that our eyes are simply unable to reveal.”