Guide to Finding the Brightest Winter Constellations

Odds are we can all name a few constellations off hand. However, in case you didn't know, only a handful of constellations can be seen year round. That's because our planet slowly rotates around the sun, exposing a new section of stars when the seasons change. In the winter, we get to see the following five constellations (among others). Can you find them all?

Note that most of this information comes from a fantastic ressource online called Constellation Guide which gives in depth information on all things astronomy. You can find a link to the website at the end of this article.



Gemini


How to find it: If you follow the main line that draws the lower part of the big dippers "handle" away from the pot, it will lead you right to the two brightest stars in Gemini.

What it is: The name Gemini means "The twins" in latin, which is most likely referring to the two brightest stars within the constellation: Castor & Pollux. The stars are named after the Disocuri twin brothers from Greek mythology, aka Castor and Polydeuces sons of Zeus. As the story goes, the brothers took part in a fight in which Poydeuces had to watch his brother Castor die. He then asked their father zeus to keep him with his brother forever, so Zeus placed them together in the stars.

What it looks like: As you can see, the constellation is supposed to resemble two men standing side by side. The heads of each being the two stars.


Orion


How to find it: By looking for three bright stars in a short but straight line. Being the brightest and most well know winter constellation, this one will be hard to miss. It contains two of the 10 brightest stars in the night sky named Rigel and Betelgeuse. One being located at the shoulder of his raised arm and the other located on his left foot.

What it represents: There are many stories surrounding Orion. Though all of them describe him as a handsome hunter with loyal dogs (Canis Major & Canis Minor), the object that he's chasing changes based on the story. In some stories it's women (like the Seven sisters constellation) and in others it's a Bull (Taurus).

What it looks like: Visibly you can tell why some simply call it Orion's belt because it is the constellation feature easiest to find. As you can see, the constellation looks like a man holding a bow, which is obviously Orion.



Canis Major


How to find it: By finding the brightest star in the sky that's not near the horizon. This will be a Star called Sirius, which is located on the doggos chest. Three other stars closer to the horizon may seem brighter but that is because those are actually planets! Namely Venus, Mars, and Jupiter.

What it represents: This is Orion's dog! They go hunting together. Some myths says that this canine is chasing a nearby constellation of a bunny called Lepus, and others say that he's helping Orion hunt the bull (Taurus).

What it looks like: The constellation looks like a dog on its hind legs.


Taurus

How to find it: If you can find Orion, then this guy is right above it slightly to the right. If you know about the 7 sisters constellation, then funny enough Taurus is found right between Orion and the 7 sisters.

What it represents: You likely already know that this constellation is a horoscope and that it's referred to as the Bull. Many myths say many different things about him. Some say he is being hunted by the nearby constellation Orion, others say that he is simply a representation of Zeus. Tomayto-Tomahto.

What it looks like: Honestly to me it looks like a guy doing a squat with his arms straight in the air, but clearly to astronomers long ago it resembled more the face of a bull with its nose at the bottom right and its horns shooting up.



Eridanus

How to find it: This guy is the fourth biggest constellation in the sky. It is a string of stars snaking its way through the sky and it's to the lower right of Orion, underneath Taurus. Though you should note that because of its size the constellation is also twice the height and four times the width of Orion.

What it represents: This boy is a beast! More commonly known as the Whale, it is a sea monster from greek mythology. There was some drama between some queen and poseidon, so the queen had to sacrifice her first born to our boy here Eridanus. Then drama ensued. The usual.

What it looks like: There are lots of interpretations as to what this monster is supposed to resemble, but generally it's some sort of sea serpent or seal. Ironically never a whale though.


If you're having a hard time finding any of the constellations above then I highly recommend using a star guide app on your phone or a constellation guide book! Both are highly valuable assets to have when star hunting.







References


"Constellations: A Guide to the Night Sky", Constellation Guide. https://www.constellation-guide.com/


Sciencing. https://sciencing.com/


Astrotourism. https://www.astrotourism.com/


Go Astronomy. https://www.go-astronomy.com/





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