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Home School Life Journal ................................................................................................................painting by Katie Bergenholtz

Winter Nature Study: Astronomy: Orion

"For many reasons aside from the mere knowledge acquired, children should be taught to know something of the stars. It is an investment for future years; the stars are a constant reminder to us of the thousands of worlds outside our own, and looking at them intelligently lifts us out of ourselves in wonder and admiration for the infinity of the universe and serves to make our own cares and trials seem trivial...Perhaps nothing (can be such a) constant source of satisfaction and pleasure as this ability to call a few stars by the names they have borne since the men of ancient times first mapped the heavens.
-Anna Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study, page 815

"The way to begin star study is to learn to know the Big Dipper and through its pointers to distinguish the Polestar; for whenever we try to find any star we first so as to have some fixed point to start from." -Anna Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study, page 818

The centerpiece of the winter sky is the constellation Orion, which makes star gazing easy in these months because it is so easily recognized and because it is viable throughout the world as it is located on the celestial equator. We read about Orion and how Artemis hung Orion in the sky to keep his memory. The Egyptians, however, identified the constellation with Osiris, the god of rebirth and the afterlife. 

Betelgeuse and Rigel are Orion's brightest stars (1st magnitude), but the stars you notice first usually are the three that make up Orion's belt.
"Draw upon the blackboard... the Big Dipper and the Polestar with a line extending through the pointers. Say to the pupils that this Big Dipper is above or below or at one side of the Polestar, and that you wish them to observe for themselves...." -Anna Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study, page 820
If you look to the next group of stars that Orion appears to be shooting is called Taurus, the bull.

If you look below ant to the right of Orion, you can see a river of stars snaking through the sky. This constellation is called Eridanus, which is named after the ancient Greek name for the Po River (northern Italy). 

Below Orion is another group of stars called Lepus, the hare.

Finally, below Orion and to the left and then directly left are Orion's hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor.

Just left of the left-most star that forms Orion's belt is something called the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which is a group of nebulae, which include the Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula. Near the bottom star that forms Orion's sword (that hangs down) is the Orion Nebula  and a cluster of stars known as the Trapezium.

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