- January Sky School
This article features two constellations
from the Zodiac - Taurus the Bull and Gemini, the Twins. Since so many can
identify Orion the Hunter with his three-star belt, I have included him
to help you get oriented. The stars on the map can be seen high in the sky
as you face south in the Winter.
entire sky is wonderful at this time, displaying many of our brightest
stars. If you're learning the sky with the help of these articles, you'll
still find many of the major constellations I've covered: Andromeda, with
Perseus not far behind. Cassiopeia, Cepheus, the dippers and Draco, of
course, never set for us.
The twelve constellations of the Zodiac are of special interest to astronomers.
The Sun and the planets all follow a path, called the Ecliptic, that runs
through these constellations. The Sun moves through about one constellation
each month, so the star chart covers about two months of the Sun's yearly
journey. Our Moon also follows this path, but not as closely.
Clusters and a Nebula
There are three special objects marked on the star map. Taurus has two
open clusters: The Pleiades and the Hyades, both worth seeing with the
naked eye or binoculars. They are so big that a telescope is often not
the best choice. Orion's sword has M42, the great Orion Nebula, birthplace
of stars. It's interesting with the naked eye, and can be rivetting in
a telescope. Make a drawing!
For those of you following the Greek mythology, two of these constellations
are connected to the Hercules stories. As a boy, Hercules learned wrestling
from Pollux, twin of Castor. As one of his tasks, set by the jealous Hera,
Hercules had to defeat the Cretan Bull. Another of his tasks was to kill
the Nemean Lion, commemorated in Leo, a constellation I show you in another
article. Hercules himself is not nearby, but is featured in another article.