WE ARE now officially 'in autumn,' and after summer's long, bright nights it is finally getting dark at a respectable time again. But if you're up late in the evening you can already see the main stars of winter rising in the east.

The most famous winter constellation is Orion, the Hunter, and that constellation is now visible after midnight, low in the east. Orion is very easy to recognise - it is roughly hexagon-shaped, and looks like an hourglass of stars, with a short line of three blue-white stars across its centre. This is the famous Orion's Belt and its three stars are all the same brightness so they really stand out in the sky.

At the top left of Orion is a bright orange star. This is Betelgeuse, and it is more than 600 times wider than our own Sun. It's so huge if it swapped places with the Sun it would swallow up all the planets out to and including Mars. Opposite Betelgeuse in Orion's bottom right corner is the blue star Rigel. Rigel is another giant star, much hotter than our own Sun and 40,000 times more luminous than it, too. Both Betelgeuse and Rigel look beautiful in binoculars, which really enhance their colours.