As told in this month’s Sky Tour astronomy podcast, Orion, the Hunter, dominates February’s evening sky, but he seems unaware of the cosmic prey that surrounds him.

This episode is sponsored by Celestron, manufacturer of high-quality telescopes and an industry leader in developing exciting optical products with revolutionary technologies.

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With Saturn diving into the evening twilight and Venus drooping in the eastern sky before dawn, only Jupiter remains as an easy-to-spot planet in February’s nighttime skies.

Of course, plenty of other night-sky sights are overhead. At this time of year the evening sky is awash with brilliant stars. Most obvious is Orion, the Hunter, which strides high above the southern horizon after nightfall. Orion is unmistakable, even if you suffer from lots of light pollution, with three stars in a tight diagonal row marking his belt, surrounded by a tall boxy quartet of bright stars to frame his torso.

To the belt’s upper left is the red supergiant star Betelgeuse, which marks Orion’s left shoulder. To its lower right is icy-white Rigel, marking this hunter’s left leg.

Orion and nearby constellations
The prominent stars of Orion appear high above the southern horizon on February evenings. Surrounding him are several star patterns that ancient skywatchers recognized as various animals — and a long, winding river.
Sky & Telescope

In mythology Orion was a famous hunter, and maybe for that reason the ancients surrounded him with several types of prey. Aldebaran and the stars of Taurus, the Bull, are to Orion’s upper right. But other critters are lurking around Orion and even right under his feet. For example, look to Orion’s left, and you’ll notice a lot of rather starless real estate between the great hunter and brilliant Sirius. There are plenty of stars here, though they’re faint, and they form a sizable constellation named Monoceros, the Unicorn.

And if Orion is such a great hunter, how can he miss a celestial hare, the constellation Lepus, right under his feet? Lepus does look like its namesake. Its head is on the right, marked by a small trapezoid of four stars, with pointy ears extending upward to just beneath Rigel. And to their left is an arc of stars along its back and hindquarters.

Other interesting but lesser-known constellations surround Orion, awaiting your discovery. To find them — and many other celestial sights in view this month — stream or download February’s Sky Tour astronomy podcast. It’s a fun and informative way to learn your way round the night sky.

Read the full podcast transcript.


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