Next “Gateway to the Stars” is February 11

Mike Murray

This month’s installment of “Gateway to the Stars” will take place on Saturday, February 11 instead of the normal first Saturday of the month. This is the time of year when the famous constellation of “Orion the Hunter” finally climbs high enough into the sky to be fully appreciated and useful as a guidepost to other stars and telescopic treats.

The stars of Orion make for one of the most recognizable constellations in the winter sky

The stars of Orion make for one of the most recognizable constellations in the winter sky

Many of us can instinctively pick out Orion because of its three prominent “belt stars” arranged in a convenient line, surrounded by four more bright stars representing the character’s shoulders and knees. But its notoriety comes from other factors as well. It may have been known as a “mighty hunter” to both the Greeks but many other cultures had celebrated descriptions for this group as well. One of my favorite representations of Orion comes from the Tewa People, who referred to Orion as their Chief Long Sash. Long Sash was remembered for leading his people westward to a new land away from their enemies who were constantly raiding their villages. It’s a wonderful story about perseverance, equality and humility – highly valued traits of the Tewa Pueblo People.

The bright reddish star in Orion’s shoulder is sometimes called “Beetlejuice” (like the movie), because it’s true name is “Betelgeuse” (an ancient Arabic word that roughly translates into “Armpit of the Mighty One”!). And, Orion’s sword contains one of the most famous nebulas in the sky – The Orion Nebula, a massive cloud of dust and gas giving birth to hundreds of new stars.

We’ll present some special features of this constellation on our dome that you can’t experience on any computer screen or movie, but we’ll also show how the pattern of Orion itself can make for one of the best guideposts to the Winter sky. Selected stars in this constellation can act like “pointers” to other major stars and deep sky wonders, many visible to the naked eye or binoculars.

Get ready for a multitude of astronomical treats. From Orion to the “Dog Star,” Taurus to the “The Seven Sisters,” this is the season for celestial riches!

Tickets for this presentation are $1 at the ticket window or $2 online. Members are free.

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