If you teach your homeschool students only one constellation, teach them Orion the Hunter, high in the southern sky now every evening.
Of all the constellations, none is quite as magnificent as Orion, “the most beautiful and imposing constellation in the heavens” according to your recommended River Houses star atlas (riverhouses.org/books). If your students learn to recognize Orion—shoulders, legs, belt, and sword—they will have a friend for life, and no matter where they go in the Northern Hemisphere, from the deserts of Arizona to the mountains of Siberia, Orion will watch over them every year.
In mid-February, Orion is high in the south in the early evening, just right for extended viewing. The two bright stars that mark his shoulders carry the wonderful names Betelgeuse and Bellatrix; his legs are marked by Saiph and Rigel (see pages 18–19 in your star atlas). Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star, many times larger than our sun; Rigel is a blue-white supergiant. The famous Orion Nebula is visible to the naked eye if you’re viewing from a dark-sky location; it covers the middle of Orion’s sword.
To the left of Orion you can see Sirius, the brightest of all the fixed stars, marking Orion’s faithful companion constellation Canis Major, the Big Dog.
¶ Watchers of the skies: Teaching your students to recognize the constellations is one of the simplest and most enduring gifts you can give them. The planisphere on the front of your River Houses star atlas (riverhouses.org/books) will let you dial up the northern hemisphere sky for any night of the year, and the descriptions and maps of each constellation will point out the highlights. Find a dark-sky spot near you this month and spend some quality homeschool time beneath the starry vault.