by Peter Williams
The constellation of Orion (The Hunter) is a familiar sight during winter months and is a fine spectacle in the southern sky as it climbs up around midnight.
The top left corner of the constellation is marked by Betelguese, a red supergiant star nearing the end of its life. It is 429 light-years* away. The bottom right corner is marked by Rigel a blue supergiant 777 light-years distant. Orion is also well-known by the 3 stars which mark his belt and the 3 which make up his sword. The ‘fuzzy’ patch near the central star of the sword is the Orion nebula, the closest region of massive star formation to Earth. I say ‘closest’ but it is still over 1,300 light-years away!
There is a lunar eclipse at 7 am on 19 November. Its early stages can be seen low in the western sky before the Moon disappears below the horizon.
* A light-year is a measure of distance (not time). It is how far light travels in one year, almost 6 million million miles!!! Incidentally, the moon is 1.3 light-seconds from earth