But then I discovered two key facts (source):
- If you follow the stars in Orion's belt in a straight line to the right, you will eventually hit the Pleiades.
- You can recognize the Pleiades because they are shaped like a mini-Dipper. We're talking a cute, tiny Dipper shape, much smaller than the actual Little Dipper.
Caveats: If there's too much light pollution, you can't see the Pleiades (they are dimmer than Orion and Aldebaran). Also, these are winter constellations, so if you are in the Northern Hemisphere you have only about a month more to view them this season. Currently, they are best seen in the early evening, just an hour or two after sundown.
The Pleiades are small, but distinctive, and many cultures have incorporated them into their mythology. I myself realized that while stargazing in years past, I had observed a cute little Dipper-shaped grouping -- I just had never known that it was the Pleiades. When I finally learned how to sight them using the "Orion's belt" method, I felt like I was seeing an old friend.
"Hello, girls," I said.