Throughout history, the Orion constellation has inspired cultures, religions and beliefs. But why was Orion so important to these civilizations?
Orion stands out in the night sky
The constellation contains two of the brightest stars in the sky, Betelgeuse and Rigel, and has a total of 81 stars.
The main stars are: Betelgeuse (Alfa Orionis), Bellatrix (Gamma Orionis), Alnitak (Zeta Orionis), Alnilam (Epsilon Orionis), Mintaka (Delta Ori), Saiph (Kappa Orionis) and Rigel (Beta Orionis).
The brightest star in the Orion constellation is Rigel, which is considered the seventh brightest star in the sky.
It is about 773 light-years from Earth, and its brightness is 40,000 times greater than the Sun and emits 100,000 times more energy than our star.
The myth behind Orion
As one of the most visible constellations in the sky, Orion has always been present in stories and mythologies.
In Greek mythology, Orion was a giant hunter who was placed in the stars by Zeus after his death. According to the myth, Orion was the son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, from whom he inherited the ability to walk on water.
After crossing the sea to the island of Chios, where he attacked the daughter of the island’s ruler, Orion was blinded as a punishment. However, he was later healed by Helios, the Greek personification of the sun.
Orion became arrogant for his great hunting skills and promised to kill all the creatures on the planet. The Earth Goddess, Gaia, responded by sending a giant scorpion to destroy him. In the ensuing battle, Orion was killed and both he and the scorpion were placed among the stars.
Orion is also present in Egyptian mythology, and according to it, the gods descended from the belt of Orion and Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.
The Orion Nebula
Orion is also home to one of the most beautiful objects in the night sky: the Orion Nebula, known to astronomers as M42.
The third “star” in Orion’s sword is not a star, but the Orion nebula. If you look closely with the help of binoculars, you will see not one, but many stars.
Where stars are born
Images of the Orion Nebula, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2006, were able to detect dust discs around some of the young stars.
These discs may be forming their own solar systems, which is why the Orion constellation is one of the most prominent constellations in the night sky.
Orion and the Pyramids
There is a theory that the pyramids at Giza imitate Orion’s belt.
The 3 pyramids, like the 3 stars in the Orion constellation belt, are not exactly symmetrical. This would prove that it is not a miscalculation but that they were built on purpose.
In addition, the pyramids are oriented towards the Nile River, just as the constellation is oriented towards the Milky Way.
The ancient city of Teotihuacan, located in Mexico, is another marvel of the ancient buildings linked to Orion. According to the theory, like the pyramids of Giza, the monuments of that city point directly to the three stars of Orion’s belt.
Orion is changing
The stars in Orion are gradually breaking up. However, because they are very far from Earth, for us the constellation will remain the same for a long time, even after most other constellations have changed their forms.
One event that could change that would be the Betelgeuse supernova, expected to happen at any time in the next thousands of years.
It would produce a very intense light, and after a few weeks, it would disappear, leaving a dark place where Orion’s shoulder is located today.
How to find the Orion constellation in the night sky
Orion can be seen from both the northern and southern hemispheres and is easy to find. The simplest way is to look for the three stars that make up the “belt”.
These three stars are Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. They form one of the most recognizable patterns in the sky.
Another way to find Orion is to look for the four stars that represent the shoulders. These stars are Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph.
The Orion Constellation never ceases to amaze us with its beauty and mysteries. The more we learn about its secrets and how it influenced human history, the more we realize that we still know very little.