Here’s a preview of my astronomy column, which you can get in the Dublin Informer in a week or so. In this issue, we’re watching The Hunter and The Bull as they rise in the eastern horizon throughout the month.
This month brings a couple of the best-known winter constellations into view: Orion and Taurus, the Hunter and the Bull.
If you look towards the east in the evenings, you’ll the very bright planet Jupiter. Later on in the night (and in the early mornings) this is where Taurus and Orion will rise from. The first thing to rise is the Pleiades; a young, open star cluster in Taurus. If you have good eyesight, you can probably make out seven stars in the cluster, but the real treat is found when you look at this cluster with a pair of binoculars, revealing dozens of stars!
Next is the Hyades cluster, which is a bit larger than the Pleiades. The ‘V’ shape of the cluster represents the horns of Taurus. Again, this is a stunning sight through binoculars.
After Taurus is up, Orion rises, first revealing the red giant star Betelgeuse (in the shoulder of Orion), and then the well-known trio forming Orion’s Belt. You may notice a line of faint stars below this trio: one of these is in fact a nebula, in which new stars are being born. This is barely visible with the naked eye, but a favourite sight with binoculars or a telescope.
As you can see from the starmap, Orion is depicted to fight Taurus. While the Greek myths don’t mention any such fight (most constellations are based on Greek mythology), the origin of Orion and Taurus is from Sumerian mythology. The Sumerians saw the pair of constellations as the Hero Gilgamesh battling the Bull of Heaven
The best time to view Orion and Taurus is later on the month, when they rise slightly earlier. However, if you watch this part of the horizon regulary, it’s easy to see how the sky changes over time, as the constellations reveal themselves!