orion's belt

Belt Stars of Orion

Jan 30, 2022

Orion is one of the most recognized constellations in the night sky, and the pattern within the pattern that makes it stand out is the 3 stars lined up in a row, representing the belt of the famed hunter.

I decided to dig a bit further into these 3 stars to learn more about their characteristics. The 3 stars are called Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka.

These 3 stars are important to recognize because they can be used to find other constellations in the sky.  The belt stars point to Canis Major and Sirius, the brightest star of the night sky.  They can also point towards Taurus and the bright star Aldebaran. Alnilam, the middle star, aligns with the Great Orion Nebula. The belt stars are useful.

Astronomers have studied these stars in detail, and all three of them have enough mass to evolve into supergiant stars, and will eventually go supernova. Two of the stars are multi-star systems. These stars cannot be distinguished with the naked eye, and only have been detected through further spectroscopy methods. 

Alnitak

Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's Belt. It is a triple star system estimated to be 1,260 light-years away. The primary star, Alnitak Aa, is a blue supergiant star.

Alnilam

Alnilam is the largest of the three belt stars. It is estimated to be 2,000 light-years away and it is a single star system. This star will eventually become a supernova.

Photo: By Baperookamo - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94061887 

Mintaka

Mintaka is multi-star system that contains five stars. It is possible it contains a sixth star, but it has not been confirmed at the time of this writing.  The largest star is called Mintaka Aa1 and it is O-type giant star. 

 

Orion's Belt is widely recognized throughout the world and it has many names, including the Three Marys, the Three Sisters, and the Three Kings. The Chinese culture identifies it as The Weighing Beam. There are many more names for Orion's Belt, and those names will vary depending on place and culture. Now when you look at Orion's Belt, you know that two of the three stars are multi-star systems.  

 

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