Vanishing Hunter

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Vanishing Hunter

This time of year is pretty inviting for some evening skywatching. The evening hours are warm but not usually too hot, and spring storm activity generally hasn’t reached its peak — pleasant conditions for watching the stars.

Unfortunately, one of the most beautiful star patterns is dropping from view, so there aren’t many more weeks to enjoy it.

Orion the hunter is low in the west as night falls. Its three-star belt stands almost parallel to the horizon. And its two brightest stars bracket the belt: orange Betelgeuse above, and blue-white Rigel below.

Orion climbs into prominence in the evening sky around Thanksgiving and Christmas. At that time of year, it’s in view for most of the night.

As the months roll by, though, so does Orion. The constellation rises earlier each night, so by late February, it’s halfway across the southern sky at nightfall.

And now, it’s about to drop from view. There’s only an hour or two of really good viewing time — between the end of twilight and the time Orion’s stars begin to set. And that viewing window gets shorter by the night. By mid-May, it’ll be hard to see the constellation at all.

Fortunately, though, there’s still a lot to look at after Orion passes from view. And the hunter won’t stay gone forever. He’ll begin to climb into the morning sky in August, and return to the evening sky during the longer, colder nights at year’s end.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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