The sky at the end of the year we have one of the most identifiable constellations, with something that we even associate with the Christmas festivities
Although they live in a city surrounded by light pollution, one of the constellations that we can see with the naked eye is Orion.
In particular, it is very easy to distinguish the sequence of three very bright stars that we call the Belt of Orion, or the Three Wise Men.
Link the dots
Constellations are sets of stars that are mated to each other and form some identifiable pattern.
Human beings like to find patterns in what we observe, especially if they are useful for something.
Since prehistoric times, the position of certain stars whose appearance coincided with certain periods of the year or helped to identify a direction was recognized.
Those sets of stars were given names depending on what observers thought they were: a dog, a hare, a horse.
All the stars in a constellation are very, very far from us, which is why they seem to have such definite positions in the sky and have varied very little over the centuries.
Those stars, most of the time, are also very far from each other: the arrangement that we observe that makes them look like a boat or an arrow, is like this only if we see them from our relative position on Earth.
At the end of November the constellation of Orion it is visible both in the northern hemisphere, where winter will begin, and in the southern hemisphere, where summer will begin.
This constellation is named for a hunter who appears in Homer’s Odyssey, among other mentions in the Greek mythology.
Orion is a constellation that has a special characteristic: the sequence of three stars that, in the idea that they are part of the image of a man hunting, correspond to his belt.
The three wise men
Orion’s belt is what is called an asterism: a part of a constellation that is easy to identify on its own. From left to right, the stars on the belt are: Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka.
With the naked eye we only see three stars, but two of them Alnitak and Mintaka are actually star systems.
Alnitak is a three star system that is 1260 light years from Earth, Mintaka is a binary system 1200 light years away. Alnilam is a lone star, 2000 light years from here.
The fact that the belt has three visible stars and is in the night sky close to the Christmas festivities, has to do with the fact that it is also called The three wise men; especially in countries where it is customary to celebrate on January 6 by eating the bread called Rosca de Reyes and giving gifts to children.
Although it does not matter much how you celebrate this date, if you take a look at the sky you can receive another type of gift.