Finding direction with the Constellation of Orion
The Constellation of Orion, or ‘The Hunter’ can be best viewed in the evening skies from November to February. And during that time, it holds true for both the Northern- and Southern hemisphere. Although Orion is still visible in the night sky up to the month of May. From the three belt stars, the highest one is called Mintaka. The middle one is called Alnilam and the lowest one (relative to shoulder- and knee stars) is called Alnitak. In between the belt and both knee stars, there is the Great Nebula, which forms the sword of the ‘Hunter’. And the ‘knee’-stars are Rigel and Saiph.
Picture on the right: Sanu N, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
How to use Orion to find the direction?
- Drawing a line from the brightest star within the Great Nebula via a point halfway between Alnitak and Alnilam, will show direction True North.
- Alternatively, a line connecting the right knee star (Saiph) with the right shoulder star (Betelgeuse – the big red star) will also indicate correctly True North. ‘Right’ in this connection means the right side of the figure displaying Orion – which is the left side of the figure as seen by the observer.
- And the sword (Great Nebula) of the Hunter will always point from the belt to an approximately southern direction
Lessons learned about finding direction with Orion
- The constellation of Orion is only visible for about half a year in the night sky. Rest of the year it is invisible due to its appearance at the day sky.
- Best time to see Orion in both hemispheres is from November to May.
- Draw a line from the brightest star within the Great Nebula via a point halfway between Alnitak and Alnilam will show approximately northerly direction.
- Connecting the right knee star (Saiph) with the right shoulder star (Betelgeuse – the big red star) will also indicate correctly True North.
- And the sword of the Hunter always points from the belt to the South.