Orion is a large, striking constellation, with many bright stars. I have already written about Rigel, its brightest star. Of its other bright stars, Betelgeuse is 12th brightest in the sky, while Bellatrix is down there at 27th.
These two stars are a case of the myths fitting the reality, since Pollux is the brighter (17th brightest) while Castor languishes at 23rd. Since many versions of the Classical story of the Heavenly Twins made Castor the mortal one, it seems fitting that his star is slightly dimmer.
Status is a funny thing. When Pluto was relisted as a dwarf planet, it was definitely a demotion. For the former asteroid Ceres, however, it was a step up. What had been an unusually large asteroid has moved into a whole new league. This was a bit unfortunate for astrologers, as they had taken the four largest asteroids, all named for Classical goddesses, as a balancing-act for the male-dominated planets.
In the next few months I plan to have an occasional series on the 20 brightest stars in the sky. Originally I was planning to start at 1 and work down, but I thought it made more sense to deal with them when they were most visible. So this month I’ll be writing about Capella, Sirius, Procyon, and Rigel.
Capella is the sixth brightest star in the sky, and third brightest in the northern hemisphere. It belongs to the constellation of Auriga, the Charioteer. As the title of this post indicates, the Charioteer is often shown cradling a goat in his arm, with the kids (or a whip). He also seems to have lost his chariot, which isn’t part of the constellation.
Rigel is basically Orion’s ankle. You can find it if you look for the three stars of his belt, then down the belt to the bright white star below it. The name comes from Rijl Jauzah al Yusra, the Left Leg of the Jauzah (Jauzah was the Arabic title for Orion).
Fun fact: Rigel was mentioned in several Star Trek episodes, in the form of its planet, Rigel VII. Captain Pike had landed there and been attacked, and this history, as well as more current events, were mentioned in episodes of New Generation and Deep Space Nine.