Sirius, also known as the dog star, and the star of the Dog Days of summer is back again.
You can find Sirius faithfully beside Orion, the Hunter.
The star of the winter constellations, Orion is visible in the winter sky from November to February. Look for Orion to rise above the eastern horizon about 8-9 p.m., and move westward through the night.
Marking the right shoulder of Orion is the red giant star Betelgeuse. His left shoulder is the star Bellatrix. The bright star Rigel is on his leg. The three stars that form Orion's belt are called Alnilam, Mintaka and Alnitak.
Many civilizations saw a figure of a hunter/warrior in this pattern of stars. According to the Mythology Dictionary, Orion can be found in Hindu, Egyptian, Arab, Celtic, Norse, and Mexican mythology, as well as the more familiar Greek and Roman myths.
In the Hindu Vedas and Upanishads, he is called Prajapati, "lord of creatures" and protector of life
In ancient Egypt, he is the god Osiris
Arab astronomers called this figure Al Jabbar, the Giant
In Mexico, he is Atl, the Bowman
In Celtic mythology, this constellation is known as Ceraumnos, and the figure is Mabon, deity of the winter sun
In Norse mythology, this figure is Odin himself
There are many stories about Orion in Greek and Roman mythology. In one story, Orion boasted that no creature could kill him. Hera sent a giant scorpion to do battle with the hunter. In the ensuing battle, Orion killed the scorpion, but he was also poisoned. As EarthSky explains, both fighters were placed far apart in the sky, as the constellations Orion and Scorpius. They are never seen at the same time.
In a different story, Orion pursued the seven sisters of the Pleiades, companions of Artemis. When they begged the gods to save them, Zeus turned the sisters into a flock of doves, and set them in the sky.
There is another story involving Orion and the goddess, Artemis. In this story, Apollo bets his sister that she couldn't hit a distant object in the sea. Artemis didn't realize it was her lover, and shot Orion with an arrow. When she found out what she had done, the heartbroken goddess asked to have Orion honored in the sky. Zeus placed the hunter not too far from the Pleiades, where Orion still pursues them.
Cold, clear winter nights are ideal for observing Orion, and other wonders in the night sky. If a telescope is on your gift list, Space.com has guidelines and suggestions.
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