Farewell Orion

orion

The most spectacular constellation in the northern winter sky is Orion, the Hunter (named after a god from Greek mythology). By mid-April this constellation is only visible in the western sky for a couple of hours after sunset. No longer the spectacular overhead cluster of stars with its belt and sword, it is making its exodus from prominence in the sky just as winter fades. In Canada and higher elevations and latitudes in the U.S. there may still be snow on the ground. In milder parts of North America Orion takes his leave as tulips bloom, daffodils fade, and lilac buds begin to form.

By May the mighty hunter is gone from our early night view until October when fall returns. I love this constellation. It is like having a friend up in the sky that is a better marker of the monthly calendar than the more fickle phenology of snow cover or blooming plants.

And imagine my surprise to discover Orion is also found in the southern hemisphere—as, of course, a marker in the summer sky. There he lies on his side, but he is as well known and distinctive to the Australians as he is to us. Though when we were visiting recently, I was informed the constellation is more commonly known as “the Pot” from the shape of the sword and belt. Constellations are named through our imagination and if we tend to them, they can tell us a lot about the changing seasons.

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2 comments
  1. Gretchen Staebler said:

    I did not know that. Thank you. Orion (or Orion’s Belt, I think I called it as a child) has always been the constellation I could most easily find. Sadly, I haven’t lived where stars were very visible for a long time. I miss them.

  2. We also call it the saucepan! The pot and long handle are clear when it is upside down!
    Great post.

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