Finding That First Constellation

About Finding That First Constellation

An informal glance at the moonless sky from virtually any area in the world will expose a great number of stars that may leave the beginner to astronomy feeling utterly lost and bewildered.

Even so, a great place to begin for any novice astronomer is to learn some of the elementary (easily observable) star constellations. These are best observed with the naked eye, preferably in a countryside or distant setting although many will still be watchable in many urban areas.

The first thing to do is to identify a notably dominant star pattern and use it as a starting point. For the winter observer there is no better marker than the constellation of Orion, which straddles the celestial equator and is therefore visible from anyplace on the surface of the planet.

On a really clear night you should be capable of seeing the Orion Nebula dangling from the belt like a sword. In reality this is not a star at all, but a far-away cloud of glowing gas and dust in which new stars are continuously being formed , a sort of stellar nursery.

Messier 42 is around 1,500 light years distant, and measures 30 light years across. It contains four stars identified as 'Trapezium'. It appears particularly impressive when viewed through a telescope.

Using a star chart that depicts the sky to the east in December you will get an impression of how large Orion seems in connection to other constellations that border it.

If you would like a handy companion with you to assist in locating the constellations the The Cambridge Guide to the Constellations would be a great addition to the library for the serious amateur astronomer.

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