Complex things in simple words | What is interesting about the Orion constellation?

Orion is one of the most famous constellations. It decorates the winter sky of Ukraine and other countries of the Northern Hemisphere, because at this time of year it rises above the eastern horizon in the evening and stays in the sky all night. It consists of many prominent stars. And each of them has its own interesting story to tell.

Сузір'я Оріона
The constellation of Orion

1. How to find the Orion constellation in the sky?

The constellation Orion is one of the most prominent in the celestial sphere. In the evening, to find it, you need to look directly to the east, and before dawn, on the contrary, to the west. In any case, you need to look for three fairly bright stars lined up in a single line. This is the so-called “Orion’s belt”.

Two more pairs of stars are located on either side of it and form something similar to two trapezoids connected by small bases. In this case, Castor and Polux from the constellation Gemini are to its left, and Aldebaran, in Taurus, is above it. The Big Dipper is even further behind Gemini.

2. Who is Orion?

The constellation Orion got its modern name in ancient Greece. According to legend, this group of stars was named after a hunter who became famous for his exploits. However, there are different versions of where he came from, how he lived and died.

However, in all of them, he is associated with the gods Artemis and Poseidon, who first help him and then bring him misfortune or even kill him for his aggressiveness and insatiable appetite. Many legends also associate him with the giant scorpion, which, according to myths, later became one of the zodiac constellations.

3. How long has the constellation Orion been known?

The most interesting thing about the constellation of Orion is that it was known to people in the Stone Age. At least, the image of its stars was engraved on a mammoth bone found in Germany in 1979. Experts estimated its age at 32-38 thousand years.

Orion was present in the texts of ancient civilizations from the very beginning. The ancient Egyptians considered him to be the embodiment of the god of eternal life Osiris and revered him as the king of the stars. The ancient Babylonians called him the Heavenly Shepherd.

The Orion constellation is even mentioned in the Bible. There it is known as Kesil, and experts associate it with the ninth month of the Jewish calendar.

4. When will the Betelgeuse star explode?

Orion’s brightest star is its α, known as Betelgeuse. It is located above its belt and slightly to the left. It is a red giant with a luminosity 14 thousand times greater than the Sun’s. Its radius is not known for certain, but it is believed that if this star were placed in the place of the Sun, its outer layers would reach the orbit of Mars or even Jupiter.

Recently, however, Betelgeuse has been known mostly for its anomalous behavior. A few years ago, it suddenly began to dim, but then returned to normal. This led scientists to believe that it was preparing to explode as a supernova.

Studies have shown that Betelgeuse is indeed in the last stages of its existence, but they can last for tens or hundreds of thousands of years. In any case, the Earth is not in danger, because the star is located at a distance of 650 light-years from us.

5. What is Orion’s Belt and how far is it from Earth?

Orion’s belt is one of the most visible parts of the constellation. In many cultures, it has its own name. In particular, in Ukraine, these three stars are called “kosari”. Not everyone knows that each of these stars also has its own name: Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka.

When viewed from the Earth, they may seem to be close to each other and even form a system. However, this is not the case. Alnitak is a heavy and very hot star with a luminosity 100 thousand times greater than the Sun’s, located at a distance of 1262 light-years from us.

Alnilam, a blue supergiant with a luminosity of 275 to 537 thousand solar luminosities, is 1340 light-years away. And Mintaka, whose luminosity exceeds our home star by 70-90 thousand times, is 900 light years away. In fact, these luminaries are separated by tens of light-years and are in no way related to each other.