Look to the south east after dark and see Orion tall and proud above the horizon

I AM SURE many of you were given shiny new phones or tablets for Christmas - if you were good - but did you know they can help you learn and enjoy the night sky? There are hundreds of astronomy ‘apps’ available to download, many of them free. The most useful ones are planetarium apps, which tell you what's in the sky. Lift your device to the sky and the screen shows you what's there, with everything labelled. I swear by one called Sky Safari.

But you don't need an app to do skywatching, and right now you can see beautiful celestial sights in the night sky without any hi-tech help at all. Look to the south east after dark and you'll see Orion standing tall and proud above the horizon. You'll spot The Hunter's famous diagonal Belt of three ice-blue stars straight away.

Just below and to the right of the Belt is Orion's Sword, a shorter line of three stars. Good eyesight will show you that the middle star of the Sword isn't a star but a misty patch. This is the Orion Nebula, revealed through binoculars or a small telescope to be a glowing cloud of gas and dust - a stellar nursery where stars are being born, right now...

Stuart Atkinson

Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal


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