Orion is a fantastic place to start when you’re looking into the night sky, as it is a larger constellation that contains some of the brightest stars in our night sky. So, let’s have a look at some more details about this constellation.
- Bordered By; Lepus, Monoceros, Taurus Eridanus, Gemini.
- Named after; The Hunter
- Declination; 5°
- Brightest Star; Rigel
- Best seen; Northern Hemisphere, Nov-Feb
- Size rank; 26th
- Constellation family; Orion Family
- Pronunciation; OR-EYE-ON
What is Orion named after?
Orion has been mentioned many different times throughout history. He is a God in ancient Egyptian, and he’s also mentioned in the Bible. However, he’s probably best known from Greek mythology as the Hunter, which is what this constellation is named after. He is the son of Poseidon, and is known for never being in the sky at the same time as the Scorpius constellation. This is supposedly because Gaia, the personification of Earth, sent a scorpion to kill Orion.
Who Founded the Orion Constellation?
Even in European folklore, this constellation has been mentioned throughout time by Scandinavian and Hungarian folklore. In fact, an ivory carving of this constellation was found in Germany, and was estimated to be more than 32,000 years old.
How can I see the Orion constellation?
The best time of the year to see the constellation Orion is December through to February, however many people start to notice Orion shining brightly in the sky in November.
Main Stars of Orion
Orion is an easily visible constellation, primarily due to it’s abundance of bright stars. Lets take a look at some of them, and you can match them up with the image below.
- Rigel (β) – Rigel, also referred to as Beta Orionis , is the 7th brightest star in the entire night sky. It is 70x larger than our Sun, and it is much much more brighter, up to 300,000x as bright as the Sun! We know that there are at least 4 different parts of Rigel, with the brightest being a blue supergiant star.
- Betelguese – Betelguese is the 10th brightest star in the night sky, however it’s brightness does vary a lot, so sometimes it is even brighter than Rigel. It is a red supergiant star, with it’s red hue being noted by many astronomers in the past. In 2020, Betelguese continued to decline in brightness, being significantly dimmer than it once was.
- Bellatrix (γ) – Bellatrix, which we also call Gamma Orionis, is the third brightest star in this constellation. Even though it is only the 3rd brightest in this constellation, it is still in the top 25 brightest stars in the night sky. It’s name comes from the Latin for Latin Warrior. It is a relatively young star, estimated to only be around 25 million years old (yes, that’s young for a star!).
- Mintaka (δ) – Delta Orionis, which we also call Mintaka, is one of the three stars that makes up Orion’s belt. It’s estimated to be more than 1200 light years away from the Sun, and is easily seen without a telescope, despite being only the 4th brightest star.
- Alnilam (ε) – Alnilam, which is also known as Epsilon Orionis, is the middle star of Orion’s belt. It is a blue supergiant star, and has a massive luminosity of up to 800,000x that of the Sun.
- Alnitak (ζ) – Alnitak, or Zeta Orionis, is the last star to make up Orion’s belt. It is another blue supergiant, and it’s name comes from the Arabic for “girdle”.
- Meissa (λ) – Lambda Orionis, which we also call Meissa, is a giant star more than 1000 light years away. It is estimated to be 10 the size of the Sun.
- Saiph (κ) – Kappa Orionis, or Saiph, is another star that makes up one of the feet of Orion. It is a bright supergiant star with 50,000x the luminosity of the Sun.
Overall, Orion is one of the most well known constellations in the night sky (it may or may not have something to do with Men in Black!). It is well known for it’s two extremely bright stars, and it’s a good constellation to start with if you’re just venturing out on your astronomy journey.