Constellation Orion

 

Orion, the Hunter, is probably one of the most well known and easily recognizable constellations in the night sky, easily spotted even by those who are not star-struck. His belt of three stars in a line shines brightly in both hemispheres.

How to spot Orion

The three stars of Orion's belt are easily located, even in the city. Dangling down from the belt there are three smaller stars representing the sword. His body is identified by a large rectangle of four bright stars, marking the shoulders and knees. If you can spot the Taurus, the Bull, marked by a red star, Orion faces him, supposedly in battle. The constellation is located on the celestial equator, half way between the north and south celestial poles, this means that Orion can be seen everywhere on Earth except at the poles. In the northern hemisphere the constellation is best seen between late autumn to early spring. In the southern hemisphere it can be seen in the summer months, but note that he will be upside down. In winter, mostly November and December, you will see Orion rising over the eastern horizon at around 9.00pm. He then climbs into the sky and reaches his highest point at around 2.00am.

Mythology

In Greek mythology Orion is staged as a heroic and talented hunter, but found no happiness in love. He could run faster than any animal and killed his prey with his bronze club. One day he was commissioned by the king of the island of Chios to liberate the forests from all wild animals. As thanks for that he could take the king's daughter Merope as a wife. However, Orion only tempted the young princess for one night, so the king outraged his eyes in bad temper. The God Hephaestus later brought back his sight so that Orion could continue to hunt. For years, he craved women in his area, but never got to one of them. There are several versions of his death. In one, he wanted to hunt all animals on the island of Crete, which upset the Goddess Gaia so much that she sent a scorpion to poison Orion. Both were then placed as constellations in the sky, but they are never seen at the same time.

Interesting Facts

The brightest star in the constellation is called Rigel and is 40.000 times brighter than our sun. If you draw an imaginary line through Orion's Belt it will lead you to the brightest star in the night sky called Sirius. The three bright stars forming a line through the middle of the constellation are known as Orion's Belt. The Aztecs called these stars the Fire Drill and their rising in the sky signalized the start of the New Fire Ceremony, a ritual carried out to postpone the end of the world.