ORION

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Orion, the Hunter, is the highlight of the winter sky in the Northern hemisphere. It's bright stars are unmistakeable, from the red giant star Betelgeuse (alpha) at the top left to the bluish supergiant star Rigel (Beta) at the bottom right, the brightest star in Orion at 0.18 and the 6th brightest star in our skies - it is 85,000 times as luminous as our sun ! Plum in the centre lies Orion's belt, formed by 3 second magnitude stars. At the left end of the belt lies NGC2024, the Flame nebula - a large bright nebula. Just below that lies B33, the Horsehead Nebula - a dark nebula famous for its shape. Below Orion's belt lies Orion's sword, and perhaps the most well known bright nebula in the sky, the Orion Nebula M42. Clearly visible to the naked eye, this is even better in a small telescope where the central stars of the Trapezium can be seen, surrounded by a gaseous nebula where stars are in the process of being formed. Amateur photographers can obtain impressive images of this nebula showing the beautiful colours not seen by eye. Just above M42 is the smaller nebula M43.

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