Position in the Sky
- M42 The Great Orion Nebula (diffuse nebula)
- M43 part of the Orion Nebula, de Mairan's Nebula (diffuse nebula)
- M78 (diffuse nebula)
There are several pictures of Orion on the What Are Constellations? page
An Astronomical Bestiary
Perhaps second only to the Big Dipper in Ursa Major, the constellation of Orion is
one of the most recognizable patterns of stars in the northern sky.
Orion, the hunter, stands by the river Eridanus and is accompanied by his faithful
dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. Together they hunt various
celestial animals, including Lepus, the
rabbit, and Taurus, the bull. According to
Greek mythology, Orion was in love with Merope, one of the Seven
Sisters who form the Pleiades, but
Merope would have nothing to do with him. Orion's tragic life ended
when he stepped on Scorpius, the scorpion.
The gods felt sorry for him, so they put him and his dogs in the sky
as constellations. They also put all of the animals he hunted up
there near him. Scorpius, however, was placed on the opposite side of
the sky so Orion would never be hurt by it again.
See also another version of the Orion myth written by Kevin Grey.
From the northern hemisphere, the three bright stars (Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka) in a straight line that form
Orion's Belt are easily visible on the southern horizon in winter
evenings. The bright star that forms Orion's left shoulder is Betelgeuse. The name of this star means
"The Armpit of the Central One" in Arabic, which shows that like many
other constellations, Orion was recognized across many cultures.
Hanging down from Orion's belt is his sword that is made up of three
fainter stars. The central "star" of the sword is actually not a star
at all, but the Great Orion Nebula,
one of the regions most studied by astronomers in the whole sky.
Nearby is the Horsehead Nebula (IC 434), which is a swirl of dark dust
in front of a bright nebula.
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