Winter is a perfect season for an often overlooked family activity – exploring the sky at night. With winter’s early darkness and often crisp, clear weather, the stars take on a special brightness that is nothing short of breathtaking.
January and February are perfect months to view one of the most striking and unforgettable of all the constellations – Orion, the Hunter. Rising in the southeastern sky in early evening, Orion travels (like the sun) from east to west across the winter sky as the earth turns and night progresses, to finally set in the west before morning. Orion is easy to find, by facing south and looking for the three stars in a row that make up his belt. His shoulder and knee are two of our brightest stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel. Just below and beside him is Sirius, the dog star – Orion’s faithful friend.
Indigenous storytellers also saw a human-like figure in this unique combination of stars. The Ojibwe know him as Biboonkeonini – the Wintermaker. Wintermaker stretches out his long arms to beckon the cold and winds of winter. He also ushers in the traditional storytelling season of winter.
Early on a crisp, cloudless winter night, pack up the family, bring a thermos of hot chocolate and go out stargazing. Turn out the house and yard lights for better viewing, or travel to a park or open area with few lights. Look for patterns in the stars and make your own stories. If you’re lucky, you may even see a shooting star! What an awesome reminder of the wonders around us every day.
Star watching connects with Landmarks 1, 3, 6, 11, 14, 17, 25.