Orion: Head to Toe
  NASA - October 23, 2010


Orion as a Constellation

Orion Arm, a spiral arm in the Milky Way Galaxy

Orion Nebula, a nebula also known as M42

M42 - The Great Orion Nebula (with M43)

The Sword of Orion
M42, M43, The Running Man, and NGC 1981

Around October 21 each year the famous

Orionid meteor showers peak.

Saiph - Kappa Orionis is at Orion's right knee

Hatsya is at the tip of Orion's sword.

Bellatrix Warrior Woman found at Orion's left shoulder


Meissa - Lambda Orionis - Orion's Head


Another famous nebula is IC 434, the Horse Head Nebula near Orionis. The Horsehead Nebula (also known as Barnard 33' in bright nebula IC 434) is a dark nebula in the Orion constellation. The nebula is located just below Alnitak, the easternmost star of Orion's Belt, and is part of the much larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. It is approximately 1,500 light years from Earth, and is approximately 3.5 light years wide. One of the most identifiable nebulae in the sky, it is part of a swirling cloud of dark dust and gases, shaped like a horse's head (hence its name). Also known as Barnard 33, the unusual shape was first discovered in 1888 by Mrs. Williamina Fleming on photographic plate B2312 taken at the Harvard College Observatory. The red glow originates from hydrogen gas predominantly behind the nebula, ionized by the nearby bright star Sigma Orionis. The darkness of the Horsehead is caused mostly by thick dust, although the lower part of the Horsehead's neck casts a shadow to the left. Streams of gas leaving the nebula are funneled by a strong magnetic field. Bright spots in the Horsehead Nebula's base are young stars just in the process of forming.

Flame Nebula

Orion Molecular Cloud Complex

Barnard's Loop

Orion's Belt Stars NASA

Belt Stars of Orion

Orion has important mythological connections with the journey of humanity. Ancient Egyptians claimed their gods came from the Belt Stars of Orion, which were associated with Osiris. Some believe that the connection between Orion and Earth is created by a blueprint or architectural design following the patterns of sacred geometry. This in turn links with ancient astronauts, and the world world energy grid.

Throughout the world there are numerous ancient sites that align with Orion.

Orion in History

The configurations of the constellation Orion roughly formed about 1.5 million years ago, because of relative slow movements of stars within the constellation from earth's perspective (especially the belt of Orion), constellation Orion will remain visible in the night sky for the next 1 to 2 million years, making the constellation one of the longest observable constellation parallel to the rise of human civilization.

Being so bright and distinctive, the pattern of stars that form Orion were recognized as a coherent constellation by many ancient civilizations, though with different representations and mythologies.

The ancient Sumerians saw this star pattern as a sheep, while in ancient China, Orion was one of the 28 zodiac signs Xiu. Known as Shen its literally meaning is "three", it is believed to be named so for the three stars located in Orion's belt. Chinese Constellations

The "belt and sword" of Orion are frequently referred to in ancient and modern literature, and even found recognition as the shoulder insignia of the 27th Infantry Division of the United States Army during both World Wars, probably because the division's first commander was Major General John F. O'Ryan.

Orion in Mythology

The constellation has more than one version of a story surrounding it in Greek mythology.

In one version, Artemis, the goddess of hunt and the moon fell in love with Orion. She was so entranced by him, she forgot her divinely duty of illuminating the night sky. Her twin brother Apollo, seeing Orion swimming in the sea, dared his sister to strike what only appeared to be a spot on the waves. Not knowing it was Orion, Artemis shot an arrow and killed him. Later, when she found out what she did, she placed his body among the stars. The grief she felt explains why the moon looks so sad at night.

In a different ending of this myth, Apollo's jealousy led him to summon a giant scorpion, which not even the mighty hunter Orion could defeat, and he was killed by its poisonous sting. In some versions he slays the scorpion just after it stings him, and they die simultaneously. This explains the seasonal alternation of the appearance of the constellations of Orion (October to April) and Scorpius (April to October), which do not appear in the sky together. Legends differ on whether this separation was imposed by the gods so that they would never have to fight again or so that they would be eternally chasing each other.

Sirius, the Dog Star, constitutes Orion's left leg. It is part of Canis Major and has its own mythology. In some myths, it is Orion's hunting dog. By the time of the Roman Empire, Canis Minor was said to be Orion's second child, but the ancient Greeks refer only to one dog.

It may be that the naming of the constellation precedes the mythology in this case. It has been suggested that Orion is named from the Akkadian Uru-anna, the light of heaven, the name then passing into Greek mythology. As such, the myth surrounding Orion may derive simply from the relative positions of the constellations around it in the sky.

In some depictions, Orion appears to be composed of three bodies, having three arms, two divergent legs, and a small central one, as well as the three bodies being bound at the waist. As such, together with other features of the area in the Zodiac sign of Gemini (i.e. the Milky Way, the deserted area now considered as the constellations Camelopardalis and Lynx, and the constellations Gemini, Auriga, and Canis Major), this may be the origin of the myth of the cattle of Geryon, which forms one of The Twelve Labors of Herakles.

In pre-Christian Scandinavia, the "Orion's belt" portion of the constellation was known as Frigg's Distaff (Friggerock) or Freyja's distaff. In Finnish mythology the constellation of Orion is called the scythe of Vainamoinen. The term most likely comes from the fact it can be seen in the sky in early autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, the time of haymaking.

In ancient Aram, the constellation was known as Nephila, Orion's descendants were known as Nephilim.

The constellation is mentioned in Horace's Odes, Homer's Odyssey and Iliad, and Virgil's Aeneid.

The Bible mentions Orion 3 times: Job 9:9, Job 38:31 , and Amos 5:8.

The Seri people of northwestern Mexico call this constellation Hapj (a name denoting a hunter) which consists of three stars: Hap (mule deer), Haamoja (pronghorn), and Mojet (bighorn sheep). Hap is in the middle and has been shot by the hunter; its blood has dripped onto Tiburon Island.

Orion is also important in Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. For example, the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land say that the constellation of Orion, which they call Julpan, is a canoe. They tell the story of two brothers who went fishing, and caught and ate a fish that was forbidden under their law. Seeing this, the Sun sent a waterspout that carried the two brothers and their canoe up into the sky where they became the Orion constellation.

In Indian Mythology, the constellation is known as 'Vyadh', which also means The Hunter.

Orion in Literature

The constellation is mentioned in Horace's Odes, Homer's Odyssey and Iliad, and Virgil's Aeneid.

The constellation of Orion also appears in Milton's Paradise Lost, and Tennyson's Locksley Hall, "Great Orion sloping slowly to the west".

The Bible mentions Orion 4 times: Job 9:9, Job 38:31 , Amos 5:8 and Isaiah 13:10.

The Romanian poet Geo Bogza devoted a poem to Orion.

In the Middle-earth mythos of J. R. R. Tolkien, Menelmacar is the Quenya elven name for Orion.

Adrienne Rich wrote the poem, "Orion", in which she describes how she viewed him differently from childhood to middle age.

In the News ...

Monster Black Hole Reveals its Pearly Bling   Discovery - April 1, 2014

A massive black hole has, for the first time, revealed its bling - a string of star clusters arranged like a stellar String of Pearls. Using the infrared telescopes at the Keck Observatory atop HawaiiĠs Mauna Kea, astronomers were able to cut through the light-blocking dust surrounding the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy NGC2110 in the constellation of Orion. NGC2110 is 120 million light-years away.

Black hole makes 'String of Pearls' clusters   PhysOrg - April 1, 2014
Huge young star clusters resembling a string of pearls around a black hole in the centre of a galaxy 120 million light-years away have been discovered by researchers at Swinburne University of Technology. The galaxy, called NGC2110, is in the constellation of Orion. Supermassive black holes - condensations of matter so dense that not even light can escape from its gravity - are thought to be at the centre of all large galaxies.

Baby Stars Spied Throbbing Inside Orion   Discovery - March 1, 2012

Looking like a blinding battle between opposing cosmic forces, this dazzling image shows a region of the Orion nebula as seen by NASA's Spitzer and the European Space Agency's Herschel space telescopes. The colors represent different wavelengths of infrared light emitted by infant stars as they heat up and cool down over the course of their energetic development.

Oxygen Molecules Discovered in Deep Space for First Time   Live Science - August 1, 2011

Astronomers can finally breathe a sigh of relief: A team of scientists has discovered the first oxygen molecules in deep space, capping a nearly 230-year search for the elusive cosmic molecule. The oxygen molecules were detected in a star-forming region of the Orion nebula, roughly 1,500 light-years from Earth, by the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory. The observatory used its large telescope and infrared detectors to hone in on the species, which is thought to be common in the cosmos, but has so far been hard to find. Individual atoms of oxygen (called atomic oxygen) are common in space, particularly around massive stars. But molecular oxygen, which is formed of two bonded oxygen atoms and makes up about 20 percent of the air we breathe on Earth, has eluded astronomers until now.

Betelgeuse, a boiling and magnetic supergiant star   PhysOrg - June 18, 2010
An international research team, lead by French astrophysicists from the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Toulouse-Tarbes, has detected a magnetic field at the surface of the supergiant star Betelgeuse. This observational result, published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, demonstrates that, in spite of the theoretical framework usually proposed to account for the magnetism of astrophysical bodies like the Earth or the Sun, the rotation of cosmic objects is not a necessary ingredient to trigger the efficient generation of a magnetic field.

Planetary Systems Now Forming in Orion   NASA - December 22, 2009

How do planets form? To help find out, the Hubble Space Telescope was tasked to take a detailed look at one of the more interesting of all astronomical nebulae, the Great Nebula in Orion. The Orion nebula, visible with the unaided eye near the belt in the constellation of Orion, is an immense nearby starbirth region and probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Insets to the above mosaic show numerous proplyds, many of which are stellar nurseries likely harboring planetary systems in formation. Some proplyds glow as close disks surrounding bright stars light up, while other proplyds contain disks further from their host star, contain cooler dust, and hence appear as dark silhouettes against brighter gas. Studying this dust, in particular, is giving insight for how planets are forming. Many proplyd images also show arcs that are shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula lies about 1,500 light years distant and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as our Sun.

Sharpest views of Betelgeuse reveal how supergiant stars lose mass   PhysOrg - July 29, 2009

Betelgeuse -- the second brightest star in the constellation of Orion (the Hunter) -- is a red supergiant, one of the biggest stars known, and almost 1000 times larger than our Sun. It is also one of the most luminous stars known, emitting more light than 100 000 Suns. Such extreme properties foretell the demise of a short-lived stellar king. With an age of only a few million years, Betelgeuse is already nearing the end of its life and is soon doomed to explode as a supernova. When it does, the supernova should be seen easily from Earth, even in broad daylight.

Giant star Betelgeuse mysteriously shrinking and astronomer don't know why   National Geographic - June 10, 2009

One of the largest known stars in the universe is shrinking rapidly, and astronomers don't know why. Betelgeuse (pronounced almost like "beetle juice") is a red supergiant star 600 light-years away in the constellation Orion. From Earth the star is clearly visible with the naked eye as the reddish dot that marks Orion's left shoulder.

Orion's Twin Stars Have Their Differences Discovery - June 19, 2008

Astronomers presumed that stars born at the same time, in the same parent cloud, and with the same mass would, like identical human twins, have the same physical attributes. So it was a surprise to discover that a pair of twins in the Orion nebula, a popular stellar nursery about 1,500 light-years away, have different temperatures and luminosities. One star is apparently developmentally delayed, relative to its partner. The twins are known as Par 1802.

Famous Orion Nebula Closer Than Thought Space.com - October 8, 2007

The widely photographed and heavily studied Orion Nebula is nearly 300 light-years closer to Earth than previously thought, according to a new study. The new measurements were made using the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). The scientists determined the distance to a star called GMR A, one of a cluster of stars in the Orion Nebula, by measuring the slight shift in the star's apparent position while the Earth was on opposite sides of its annual orbit around the sun.

'Oldest star chart' found BBC - January 21, 2003

The oldest image of a star pattern, that of the famous constellation of Orion, has been recognized on an ivory tablet some 32,500 years old.The tiny sliver of mammoth tusk contains a carving of a man-like figure with arms and legs outstretched in the same pose as the stars of Orion. The claim is made by Dr Michael Rappenglueck, formerly of the University of Munich, who is already renowned for his pioneering work locating star charts painted on the walls of prehistoric caves. The tablet also contains mysterious notches, carved on its sides and on its back. These could be a primitive "pregnancy calendar", designed to estimate when a pregnant woman will give birth.

The tablet may also be a pregnancy calendar.There are 86 notches on the tablet, a number that has two special meanings. First, it is the number of days that must be subtracted from a year to equal the average number of days of a human gestation. This is no coincidence, says Dr Rappenglueck. It is also the number of days that one of Orion's two prominent stars, Betelguese, is visible. To ancient man, this might have linked human fertility with the gods in the sky. Orion is one of the most striking constellations. The Ancient Egyptians identified it with their god Osiris and it has a special significance for many cultures throughout history throughout the world.