Exploring Orion, Episode 1

By The Old Farmer's Almanac
Feb 1, 2018
Orion Nebula Small DR

The Orion Nebula

David Rankin


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This week, we have a guest astrophotographer from Southern Utah, David Rankin, with a special interest in exploring the night sky via long-exposure digital photography …

The camera is able to capture space in a way that our eyes can not. Let’s explore what objects lie just beyond the reach of the naked eye during any given season.

As the colder months rush in, the constellation Orion starts to work its way up high into the southern sky. The giant hunter in Greek mythology makes his debut every fall appearing earlier and earlier as we grind further into the winter season. Orion is one of those easy, you-don’t-need-a-degree-in-astrophysics-to-spot constellations. Every star shines bright, clearly outlining the familiar shape that the Greeks were quick to mythologize those many years ago. You can clearly make it out in the photograph below.

Orion and a Geminid Meteor
Constellation of Orion (Clik to Enlarge)
Credit: astrophotographer David Rankin
Technical mumbo jumbo: Shot with a Canon Rebel XSi, 18–55mm lens; single 61-second exposure, ISO 1600

When you see Orion high in the sky, there are a few things you know. You know that it is cold, as if that weren’t obvious enough. The arrival of Orion brings to mind family gatherings, crappy winter driving, good food, good drink, snow, failed resolutions, and many more things. What does the annual return of this constellation symbolize for you?

Orion is an astronomical hodgepodge of bright stars, nebulae, and amazing stories. Let’s dismantle this mysterious constellation, exploring each part like a mad scientist suffering from an acute sense of humor and the ability to interpret space in a fun way. Stay tuned for some breathtaking photographs and great stories from deep within the universe.

What’s next?

Episode 2 explore a hidden marvel made from interstellar dust and bent light. See a witch in the stars!

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe

Reader Comments

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Mr. Rankin: Thanks for the

Mr. Rankin: Thanks for the great post! Orion is so special to me--it was the first constellation that I recognized after agonizing over star charts as a young boy. On the charts I recongnized the three stars of the belt, Mintaka, etc, and went outside and found the belt. From there I learned all the constellations and Orion opened up the universe for me. Orion is like a special friend to me and I look forward to seeing him each fall. I look forward to reading and seeing more of your posts and pics.

That is a great story Dr. Lee

That is a great story Dr. Lee Wallace. It's these sort of connections that foster a wider perspective on the world, and a more healthy one in my opinion. Thanks for sharing it!

This is so great! Here in

This is so great! Here in Shoreline, WA there are Star Gazing Parties once a month at two local parks. I have been so impressed with the quality of the telescopes as well as the overall knowledge and of the local professional and amateur astronomers. This is the perfect compliment to this growing interest in learning about stars and space in general. Thank you for this very informative post and blog.

Thanks! Star parties are the

Thanks! Star parties are the best aren't they? So many knowledgeable people with so many awesome telescopes. It's one of the best ways to learn and to enter the hobby.

I wonder why Orion is the

I wonder why Orion is the Hunter. I can see it, but it could be anything. Is it the Hunter because it appears at hunting season?

Oh boy oh boy!!!!! Thank you.

Oh boy oh boy!!!!! Thank you. Great blog!



Thanks you've helped me see

Thanks you've helped me see into the night sky.

You're welcome!

You're welcome!

Awesome first post! I've had

Awesome first post! I've had the pleasure of sitting outside, in the middle of the desert with David to take photos of the night sky on a few occasions. David knows his stuff and has taught me quite a bit about astrophotography (and geology, paleontology, flash floods, and more relating to the desert). Looking forward to more amazing shots and info. Welcome to the OFA family :)

Thanks Lou!

Thanks Lou!

Hello David. You are a

Hello David. You are a gentleman and a scholar! Great start and I am looking forward to checking in on a regular basis.

I wonder what happened to the Fall imaging trip to Kanab this year. I guess everyone was too busy this time, but I sure missed going down south and spending time with you, Don, Jerry, Cindy, Joe, and the rest of the crew... and the associated fleet of telescopes. Keep up the flow of great images and videos.

Thanks Tyler! Not sure what

Thanks Tyler!

Not sure what happened this year? Never got any word. I'd be glad to host something at my place as well. If there is one thing I miss about being up north, it is the telescope gatherings for sure. 

Great to have this on the

Great to have this on the site. More detail, please! What's the yellow-ish dot in the center? Is it the "Geminid meteor" cited in the phrase over the photo? If not, where is the meteor? Thanks!

Thanks spacefan! The yellow

Thanks spacefan! The yellow dot in the center is the star Betelgeuse, a red giant. It is a massive star that dwarfs our sun and could go supernova at any time... meaning tomorrow or in a few million years from now ;)

The meteor is the greenish streak over on the left side of the photo. It shows up as a streak because the long exposure photograph captured its entire burn up through our atmosphere. Cheers!

Great start, Kudos! Love to

Great start, Kudos! Love to look up, but I can only ever recognize the Dippers.



I am hoping you concentrate

I am hoping you concentrate on different constellations in detail. I know a handful, but would love to learn more in the night sky. I love your weather/flood photography...that is how I discovered you. I look forward to "studying" Orion. Thanks!

Thanks! I hope to spend a lot

Thanks! I hope to spend a lot of time on many of the common constellations, getting people more acquainted with the night sky in an entertaining way :)




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