He was a mighty hero of Roman mythology, and he knew it! He would boast of his mighty deeds to anyone who cared to listen — and even to those who did not care to listen. Finally, Jove responded by sending a scorpion to kill him. As bold and as boastful as he was, he was no match for the sting of the tiny scorpion. Orion, the mighty hunter, was killed. After his death, he and the scorpion were transferred into the night sky, where Scorpio is in eternal pursuit of Orion. (And you thought you were just looking at stars!)

Many classical writers alluded to Orion as a calendar sign, for its morning rising indicated the beginning of summer, and its midnight rising marked the season of grape gathering. And it's evening appearance marked the approach of winter and winter's storms. Even Hindu literature made allusions to Orion's direful influence.

Later on, the Jews called Orion Gibbor, the Giant, considered as Nimrod, bound to the sky for rebellion against God. (Nimrod is the infamous mighty hunter of the Bible who was in charge of building the Tower of Babel, and you know how that idea turned out!)

Orion is the most recognizable constellation in the cold, winter sky. It's one constellation that actually does resemble what it was named after. In instructing beginners on how to find their way around the night sky for observing, it is helpful to remember that the celestial equator (0 degrees declination) runs through the belt of Orion. It is also the location of the Orion Nebula, in the hunter's belt. This Nebula can be seen easily in binoculars or a small telescope. It is one of the best known stellar nurseries, where baby stars are being born right now as I write this article!

By Linda Sensenig

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