WPBT2's Star Gazers

Episode #12-05 "Let Orion And Venus Be Your Guide"
Air Dates January 30- February 5, 2012

JAMES: Welcome to Star Gazers. 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. We're both here to help you be sure you know what you're seeing in the night sky when you...

BOTH: Look up. 

JAMES: Almost everyone's favorite constellation of winter has to be Orion the Hunter simply because it's so huge, so bright and so easy to identify. But did you know that you can use the stars of Orion to find Taurus, the giant bull of the heavens, plus Orion's two hunting dogs and a crouching rabbit named Lepus?

DEAN:  Plus we have two dazzlingly bright planets in the western sky after sunset and a rare chance to use Venus to help you spot the giant planet Uranus. 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 between 8 and 10 p.m. looking due south where you'll see  three bright stars evenly spaced and lined up in a row. They make up the fabled belt of Orion the Hunter. And directly above them you will see two other bright stars, which mark Orion's shoulders and below the belt two more bright stars which mark his knees.

JAMES: Now if we shoot an arrow in either direction through Orion's belt we can find several wonderful cosmic objects. For instance if we shoot an arrow up to Orion's right our arrow will land almost smack dab on a reddish orange star named Aldebaran, which is the fierce red eye of Taurus the bull. But if you have really dark skies and extend that arrow a little bit further you will see a tiny dim cluster of stars riding on Taurus' shoulder, the cluster of stars called the seven sisters, the Pleiades.

DEAN: One legend has it that they're riding on the shoulder of Taurus to escape Orion who is in hot pursuit of them across the heavens. But Taurus is making sure that Orion will never get past his fierce burning eye to the fair maidens and has been doing so for thousands of years. So we can use Orion's belt to find not only Aldebaran but also the lovely and delicate and much dimmer seven sisters.

JAMES: Next shoot an arrow through Orion's belt in the opposite direction and it will land smack dab on the brightest star we can see in the night sky, Sirius.  It marks the eye of one of Orion's two dogs, Canis Major which in Latin means the big dog. And if you use your imagination and draw lines between some of these stars you can come up with a pretty good stick figure of a pooch.

DEAN:  but Orion also has a smaller canine companion named Canis Minor and to find it, well, is a bit trickier. Take Bellatrix, one of the shoulder stars of Orion, and draw a line between it and the other shoulder star, Betelgeuse, then extend that line to the east and while it won't run smack dab into Canis Minor, it will come very close to the bright star Procyon, which marks his eye. It too is very bright, although not as bright as Sirius.

JAMES: So we have now used the belt of Orion to find Orion's big dog and his two shoulder stars to find Orion's little dog. But one of our favorite constellations near Orion is a rabbit, which Orion's two dogs have probably been hunting for the past few thousand years. His name is Lepus, the hare. And he's directly underneath Orion's feet, perhaps hiding in a cosmic bush Orion is standing in: smart Lepus, not so smart Orion.

DEAN: And what about those planets we mentioned earlier? Well you can hardly miss Venus and Jupiter in the western sky. Venus is the lower and brighter of the two planets and is our evening star. You can see Venus even before sunset and if you know where to look you can even see it in broad daylight with your naked eye. Venus and Jupiter are still getting closer each night and early in March they'll be super close.

JAMES: Let's take a look on each Monday in February, the 6th, the 13th, the 20th, and the 27th. Keep watching each night until March 13th, when they'll be their closest, three degrees or about 6 full moons apart.

DEAN: But next week on February 9th, Venus will be even closer to another planet that is usually a lot harder to spot than Jupiter. On the evening of February 9th, Venus will be less than a half degree away from Uranus. You couldn't even fit one full moon between them, they'll be so close. You'll have to use binoculars to see this.

JAMES: So there you have it, Orion and Taurus and Orion's two dogs hunting a bunny, plus  Venus, Jupiter.  And for one night only, on February 9th, be sure to catch Venus and Uranus.

BOTH: Keep looking up!


Episode #12-05 "Let Orion And Venus Be Your Guide"
Air Dates January 30- February 5, 2012

DEAN: You can use Orion's stars to find several cosmic creatures.

JAMES: Plus you have a rare chance to use Venus to find the gas giant planet Uranus.

Stop drop

DEAN: In early evening this February look due south for Orion. Shoot an arrow up through his belt and it will land on Aldebaran the fierce red eye of Taurus the bull. Extend that arrow and it will land on the tiny dim star cluster the seven sisters, the Pleiades.

JAMES: Shoot an arrow the other direction through Orion's belt and it will land on Sirius, which marks the eye of Orion's big dog. Then shoot an arrow through Orion's shoulder stars and it will almost land on Procyon, the eye of Orion's little dog.

DEAN: And underneath Orion escaping his detection is a bunny rabbit named Lepus the hare.

JAMES: Then look into the west after sunset for the brilliant planet Venus. Use your binoculars and you will easily find the 7th planet Uranus just to the left of Venus.

BOTH: Keep looking up!


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