School Shows

Orion Nights

Orion Nights

Title graphic for the planetarium program Orion Nights

Produced by the Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Kalamazoo, Michigan

Detailed Description:
The sky clears on a winter night as Orion rises the eastern sky to the opening lines of Frost's poem The Star Splitter. The starting point of his journey is determined for December, January and February.

The bright winter stars are identified, and a legend of Orion is presented.

The colors of the bright stars in Orion are related to their temperatures. The relationship is illustrated by a blacksmith working on an iron rod.

Below the belt of Orion is the Great Orion Nebula, a place where stars are forming within a cloud of interstellar dust and gas. The cloud breaks into smaller parts, which collapse and heat at their centers until nuclear fusion switches on, giving birth to new stars.

Following Orion's belt to the right, we encounter Taurus, where we find the Pleiades star cluster and the Crab Nebula. The Crab Nebula is the remnant of a massive star that ran out of fuel and exploded, leaving behind a pulsar. Even more massive stars leave stellar black holes at the end of their lives.

Following Orion's belt to the left, we find Canis Major and the brilliant star Sirius. Orbiting around Sirius is a white dwarf star, which formed when a star similar in mass to the sun collapsed at the end of its life.

All these stars live out their lives in the Milky Way Galaxy, which stretches across the winter sky. The Milky Way starts near Canis Major, passes over Orion's shoulder, and on through Gemini, the twins. In a Greek legend, the twins save the ship Argo and are placed in the sky.

The Milky Way continues through Auriga where there are a few star clusters that can be seen in binoculars. Other objects are visible, but to find them you need to be able to read a star map.

With a star map in hand, the constellation Cancer is located. There we find one last cluster of stars before the lights come up at the end of the show.