WPBT2's Star Gazers

Episode #12-04 "The Orion Nebula : A True Winter Wonder"
Air Dates January 23- January 29, 2012



FIVE MINUTE EPISODE SCRIPT
JAMES:  Greetings fellow stargazers!  I'm James Albury, director of the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium in Gainesville Florida.

DEAN: And I'm Dean Regas, outreach astronomer from the Cincinnati Observatory. 

JAMES:  You know what Dean?  One of the best things about winter is that it always brings the return of one of the true wonders of the universe.

DEAN:  That's right, James!  And it's something that's very easy to spot. Let's show you:

Stop and drop

DEAN:  O.K., we've got our skies set up for any night over the next few weeks during early evening hours and if you look over to the southeast you'll see what has to be the second most familiar pattern of stars (after the Big Dipper), a pattern which is loaded with bright stars, known as Orion the Hunter.

JAMES:  Now the best way to find him is to look for his belt, which is simply 3 evenly spaced stars in a row.  These are the stars, Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Above these 3 belt stars you will see 2 brilliant stars marking Orion's shoulders, Betelgeuse and Bellatrix. And below his belt, 2 brilliant stars mark his ankle and his knee, Rigel and Saiph.

DEAN:   And although we usually talk about his brightest stars every January, this year James and I would like to zero in on one of Orion's dimmer stars because as magnificent as Orion's bright stars are, this one, is in reality one of the most awesome wonders of our nearby universe. To find it, simply look below the 3 belt stars for 3 much dimmer stars, the stars we call the sword of Orion.

JAMES:  And now if you look very carefully at these 3 stars you'll notice that no matter how sharp your eyesight, the middle star always seems to look fuzzy and slightly out of focus and that's because this so-called middle star is not a star at all, but something we call a nebula, which is a great cosmic cloud of gas and dust out of which brand new stars have been, and are still being, born.

DEAN:  That's right, James.  In fact, this nebula, the Orion nebula, is a stellar womb, a birthplace and nursery of stars, a place where new stars are constantly being born. And incredibly you can see this cloud with some of its new-born stars embedded inside it with even the cheapest pair of binoculars.

JAMES:  Indeed! This cloud is actually illuminated by 4 recently born stars arranged in the shape of a baseball diamond called the trapezium. And these 4 stars can actually be seen with a department store telescope. Now although the Orion nebula looks like a tiny, q-tip shaped cloud through a pair of binoculars, in reality, its size is mind-boggling.

DEAN:  Absolutely!  Believe it or not, there is enough material in this nebula to produce over 10 thousand stars the size of our sun and it is an outrageous 30 light years in diameter, which means it would take 20 thousand of our solar systems lined up end to end to reach from one edge of the nebula to the other.

JAMES:  Or to put it another way, if the distance from our earth to the sun were 1 inch, the distance across the Orion nebula would be over 12 miles. Is that mind-boggling or what?

DEAN: Most definitely, James. Now let's see what the planets are doing this week, because the planets are positioned in such a way right now, that no matter what time you go outside this week, you're almost guaranteed to see at least two planets in the sky at the same time.  Let's show you!

(Stop drop)

DEAN:  OK, we have our skies set up for just after sunset any night next week.  In the western sky you'll see Venus. To the upper-left of Venus, you'll see the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. Both are visible in the sky for a few hours after sunset. And if you go outside on January 29th, a thin waxing crescent moon will be joining Venus and Jupiter.

JAMES:  But wait, there's more!  If you go outside around 9:00 pm, shortly after Venus sets in the west, you'll notice that Jupiter is all alone in the sky. But it won't stay that way for long, because by 10 pm you'll see mars rising on the eastern horizon, to keep it company.

DEAN:  And if that weren't enough planets to make you happy, go outside after midnight, and you'll spot Jupiter setting in the west.  But fear not!  Saturn is rising in the east to keep Mars company.  Yet again, two planets will be in the sky at the same time, for your observing pleasure.

JAMES:  Well my friends, get outside to see the great nebula of Orion, a plethora of planetary pairings...

DEAN: ...And experience for yourself; the awe and wonder of our part of the universe. Which is easy to do if you just..

BOTH:  Keep looking up!

 

Episode #12-04 "The Orion Nebula : A True Winter Wonder"
Air Dates January 23- January 29, 2012



ONE MINUTE EPISODE SCRIPT
DEAN:  One of the best things about winter is the return of one of the true wonders of the universe, the Orion nebula.

JAMES:  That's right, Dean!  And it's very easy to spot, even with the most inexpensive telescope. Let's show you!

Stop drop

JAMES:  O.K., we've got our skies set up for early evening, any night this week.  If you look over to the southeast, you will see a constellation which is loaded with bright stars, Orion the Hunter.

DEAN:  The best way to find him is to look for his belt, three stars in a row.  Now, let's zero in on the area just below Orion's belt for three much dimmer stars, this is the sword of Orion, which contains the Orion nebula, a great cosmic cloud where new stars are being born.  

JAMES:  That's right, Dean.  In fact, this nebula contains enough material to produce over 10 thousand stars the size of our sun and it is 30 light years in diameter, which means it would take 20 thousand of our solar systems lined up end to end to reach from one edge of the nebula to the other.

DEAN: So get outside to see the Orion nebula.

BOTH:  Keep looking up!

 

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