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Orion Constellation

Orion constellation

Orion constellation is the most popular and well known, easily spotted constellation in the night sky. Constellation has a belt of 3 stars that shine bright in both hemisphere, and thanks to its brightness could be easily spotted to all observers on both hemispheres. The constellation lies in the celestial equator and has been known since ancient times. It has roots in Greek mythology and is associated with a famous Greek hunter called Orion. In the star maps, the hunter is often depicted as either facing the Taurus and pursuing Pleiade’s sister, or chasing the hare represented by Lepus constellation with his 2 hunting dogs – Canis Major and Canis Minor constellations. Orion was introduced by Ptolemy in the 2nd century and is now part of 88 modern constellations list by IAU.

How to find Orion constellation in the night sky?

Orion is the 26th constellation in size, and it lies in the first quadrant of the northern hemisphere. This constellation is located on the celestial equator, and due to its brightness could be easily seen from both hemispheres at latitudes between +85° and -75°. It could not be seen only at the poles, and the best time to look for it from the northern hemisphere is in late fall or early spring, during culmination. In the southern one, you can see it best at 9 pm rising over the eastern horizon, during late fall or early winter times. Orion is located nearby Eridanus, Taurus, Gemini, Lepus and Monoceros constellations.

Orion is a member of the Orion family of constellations along with Canis Minor, Canis Major, Lepus and Monoceros constellations.

Major stars in Orion constellation

The constellations contain seven stars with its known planets, and two of them are one of the brightest ones in the night sky – Rigel or Beta Orionis and Betelgeuse or Alpha Orionis. Rigel is the 6th brightest star in the sky with a magnitude of 0.18. Betelgeuse is the 8th brightest star in the sky with magnitude 0.43. Orion is home of few notable deep-sky objects like the Orion Nebula (Messier 42), the Horsehead Nebula, Trapezium cluster, Orion’s Belt and the De Mairan’s Nebula (Messier 43).

Orion is home of three Messier objects, and there are two important meteor showers linked to it – the Orionids that is happening every year in October and Chi Orionids. 

Mythology of the Orion Constellation

Orion was well known to Greek mythology, as the son of Poseidon, the sea god, and Euryale, the daughter of King Minos of Crete. He was one of the most beautiful men and Homer depicted him as a very tall man, a hunter armed with an unbreakable bronze club.

In one of the stories, he fell in love with the Pleiades sisters, the daughters of Atlas and Pleione. He pursues them, but Zeus placed both sisters in the night sky by the star cluster located in Taurus constellation. Orion is located nearby so it is said that he is still chasing them in the night sky. 

Another version of the story connects Orion with the Merope, daughter of King Oenopion. She was very beautiful and Orion fell in love with her. One night he had too much to drink and wanted to rape her and that made her father super mad and Orion was banished from the island of Chios. He blinded the Orion. Later on, Orion consulted the oracle who told him to went east toward the sunrise and his sight will be restored. He listened to this advice and did the said, and his eyes were healed and he was able to see again.

Constellation of Orion was known to other civilizations and their myths – in Sumerian, he was linked to the story of Gilgamesh hero who fought the bull of heaven (Taurus constellation), They called the Orion URU AN-NA which could be translated to ‘the light of heaven’ and he fought ‘the bull of heaven’ represented by GUD AN-NA, or Taurus constellation in the night sky.