Orion's Belt Stars

Orion's belt is an asterism located in our galaxy within the constellation Orion. The belt is well known due to three luminous stars commonly known as Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. The stars of Orion’s Belt, serve as the center point for the larger constellation of Orion. It is this constellation that actually gives Orion’s belt its name, because in the constellation these three stars literally form the belt that marks Orion’s midsection. Orion is one of the most easily recognized constellations and can be seen throughout the world. Each of these stars are potently bright, and often times make it extremely easy to find Orion’s belt with the naked eye. Though they are obviously easy to spot, each of these three various stars are extremely far away. Even more interesting is the fact that the two stars at either end of the belt are actually closer together than the middle star, which is millions of miles farther away. To astronomical enthusiasts this may not be surprising, but to the average star gazer, this is quite surprising.

The first star Alnitak also described as a hot blue supergiant, is more than 800 light years away, and therefore cannot be seen with the human eye due to the immense amounts of ultra violet radiation, even more surprisingly the star is 100,000 times more luminous than the Sun! Next is Alnilam, the B-type blue giant, which is the farthest of the three stars, and is roughly 1,340 light years from earth and shines with a magnitude of 1.7. Alnilam is not as bright as Alnitak, but is still 375,000 times more luminous than the Sun. Finally, Mintaka is a massive O- type star, which is 915 light years away and shines with the highest magnitude of 2.21 and is 90,000 times more luminous than the sun. An interesting characteristic that only pertains to Mintaka is that Mintaka is actually a double star. A double star makes orbit around the earth every 5 and three quarters days, and is an cool characteristic. From the naked eye, the northern hemisphere can view Orion’s belt best during the night time and only in January. Many individuals state that it can only be seen at around 8:30 or 9:00 PM, which is the time the constellation Orion is over passing the Meridian. Now that you know a little bit about Orion’s belt, see if you can find it for yourself in the night sky. It shouldn’t be too hard, just look for the three brightest stars in a line that you can find.

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