A faithful hunting dog is following his master into the evening twilight. They’ll both disappear within a few days or weeks, then return to view this summer — in the morning sky.
The master is Orion, the hunter. His constellation is one of the most beautiful of all. It’s also one of the easiest to find. As twilight begins to fade, look for it low in the west, with Orion’s three-star belt parallel to the horizon. Brilliant Betelgeuse is above the belt, with Rigel below it, barely in sight.
Orion is trailed by Canis Major, the big dog. It’s easy to pick out as well because it includes the brightest star in the night sky: Sirius, the Dog Star. It’s to the left of Orion’s Belt.
Not surprisingly, ancient skywatchers paid a lot of attention to Sirius. And they crafted many stories about him and his constellation. In one, the dog was caught in a wild chase with a nasty fox. The fox couldn’t be caught, and the dog couldn’t miss his quarry. To end the never-ending race, Zeus turned both animals to stone, and placed Canis Major in the stars.
In another story, Canis Major was one of Orion’s hunting dogs. He’s chasing Lepus, the rabbit, which is below Orion’s feet. He follows Orion everywhere — including into the evening twilight every spring.
Hunter and hunting dog will begin to vanish over the coming days. Both of them will be out of sight by late May. Orion will return to view in July, with Canis Major following in August.
Script by Damond Benningfield