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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/529

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ASTRONOMY WITH AN OPERA-GLASS.

ASTRONOMY WITH AN OPERA-GLASS.

THE STARS OF WINTER.

By GARRETT P. SERVISS.

I HAVE never beheld the first indications of the rising of Orion without a peculiar feeling of awakened expectation, like that of one who sees the curtain rise upon a drama of absorbing interest. And certainly the magnificent company of the winter constellations, of which Orion is the chief, make their entrance upon the scene in a manner that may be almost described as dramatic. First in the east come the world-renowned Pleiades. At about the same time Capella, one of the most beautiful of stars, is seen flashing above the northeastern horizon. These are the sparkling ushers to the coming spectacle. In an hour the fiery gleam of Aldebaran appears at the edge of the dome below the Pleiades, a star noticeable among a thousand for its color alone, besides being one of the brightest of the heavenly host. The observer familiar with the constellations knows, when he sees this red star which marks the eye of the angry bull, Taurus, that just behind the horizon stands Orion with starry shield and upraised club to meet the charge of his gigantic enemy. With Aldebaran rises the beautiful V-shaped group of the Hyades. Presently the star-streams of Eridanus begin to appear in the east and southeast, the immediate precursors of the rising of Orion:

"And now the river-flood's first winding reach
The becalmed mariner may see in heaven,
As he watches for Orion to espy if he hath aught to say
Of the night's measure or the slumbering winds."

The first glimpse we get of the hero of the sky is the long bending row of little stars that glitter in the lion's skin which, according to mythology, serves him for a shield. The great constellation then advances majestically into sight. First of its principal stars appears Bellatrix in the left shoulder; then the little group forming the head, followed closely by the splendid Betelgeuse, "the martial star," flashing like a decoration upon the hero's right shoulder. Then come into view the equally beautiful Rigel in the left foot, and the striking row of three bright stars forming the Belt. Below these hangs another starry pendant marking the famous sword of Orion, and last of all appears Saiph in the right knee. There is no other constellation containing so many bright stars. It has two of the first magnitude, Betelgeuse and Rigel; the three stars in the Belt, and Bellatrix in the left shoulder, are all of the second magnitude; and besides these Orion contains three stars of the third magnitude, and more than a dozen of the fourth, besides innumerable twinklers of smaller magnitudes,