How do you star hop?
Amateur astronomers use star hopping to go from stars and constellations they know … to ones they don’t know yet. First, look for noticeable patterns on the sky’s dome. One very easy pattern to find at this time of year is the constellation Orion the Hunter. You’ll find it descending in the west after sunset. Orion is easy to find because it contains a very noticeable pattern of three medium-bright stars in a short straight row. These stars represent Orion’s Belt.
If you can find Orion, you can use it to star hop to Sirius, the sky’s brightest star, in the constellation Canis Major. Orion and Sirius are dropping into the sun’s glare at this time of year, so be sure to look for them soon after the sun goes down.
You can also use Orion’s Belt to find the star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus, as shown on the chart above right.
And that’s how you come to know the constellations. You use what you’ve already learned to build outward to find new patterns.
Bottom line: Find new stars and constellations by star hopping from ones you already know.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded the website EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website and blogs frequently about astrophysics, the night sky and other topics related to Earth, space and the human world. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.
Article published on EarthSky