Fall is in the sky

Fall is in the air! The aspens are starting to change color, and the days are getting shorter. September to November are the best times to view the night sky because it gets dark earlier, yet the temperatures are relatively mild. Since the full moon was on the 10th, and the last quarter moon is on the 17th, the sky is getting better to look at.

The changing season can be seen predawn in the southeast sky as the constellation Orion, the hunter, and the star Sirius become visible. We won't be able to see them in the evening sky for another month or two when Earth's orbit changes its position. So, for now you'll have to get up early!

Orion is named after the hero of Greek mythology who was killed by Scorpius, the scorpion. The gods felt sorry for Orion, so they put him and his dogs in the sky, along with the animals they hunted.

Scorpius was placed on the opposite side of the sky so Orion would never be hurt by it again. This position prevents them from appearing in the sky at the same time. So right now, Scorpius appears in the evening and Orion in the morning. You'll remember that Scorpius appears just to the right of the Teapot in the eastern evening sky.

I love Orion! This beautiful constellation is easily identifiable by the bright stars that make up his belt. His sword contains the famous Orion Nebula which is bright enough to be viewed with the naked eye. Without binoculars it just appears as a fuzzy blob.

What is a nebula? It's a cloud of interstellar dust or gas that is illuminated by the stars within it. Nebulae are often colorful and named for the shapes they resemble. The Orion nebula has a greenish glow. Also in Orion is the bright orange star, Betelgeuse. It's an M-class red supergiant, which means it's massive with great luminosity.

Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, is part of the constellation, Canus Major. It's one of Orion's hunting dogs and sits just below and to the left of him in the sky. So, get up in the morning before it gets light and look in the South for this constellation.