This week is a good one for finding the constellation of Orion: it stands bolt upright in the evening sky. The chart shows the view looking due south at 20:00 GMT on 12 February. The most noticeable thing to look for is Orion’s belt comprising three stars: Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Look upwards from the belt and you find the red giant star Betelgeuse (famously pronounced beetle-juice). It marks one of Orion’s shoulders and is conspicuously red in colour. About as far below the belt is the bright blue-white star Rigel. The real prize, however, hangs just below the belt. Three fainter stars make up Orion’s sword. The lower one, Hatysa, is the brightest but look closely at the middle “star” and you will see it is not a star at all but a hazy pink blob. It is the star-forming region known as the Orion nebula, which houses thousands of nascent stars.
Stuart Clark is an astronomy journalist and author of several books about space, both non-fiction and fiction, including The Sky's Dark Labyrinth trilogy