Image credit: Brian Davis
Orion, Birthplace of the Stars
Let’s start with the constellation of Orion, the Hunter. It’s impossible to look up at the winter sky and miss the seven brightest stars that outline his form. He’s so well known that even non-astronomers can easily identify him. The three bright stars of his belt, Mintaka, Alnilam and Alnitak, point the way to other constellations and form a convenient marker for two of the objects on our top ten list.
No list, of course, would be complete without the Orion Nebula. Easily seen with the naked eye, even under suburban skies, it’s a treat through binoculars and simply stunning in a small telescope. You’re looking at a huge cloud of gas and dust in space, 1,300 light years away and some 24 light years across.
This is where stars are born; with the naked eye you might just see one at the center of the misty patch. Binoculars will reveal a few more, but the view through a telescope will easily show four tiny stars twinkling brightly from the nebula’s heart. These stars, collectively known as the Trapezium, are about 300,000 years old and - on a cosmic scale - are relatively young.