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The Constellation Orion the Hunter
Antique engraving of Orion the Hunter.

The figure of Orion the Hunter, as imagined by Johannes Hevelius in the 1600s. Other artists have drawn Orion differently, sometimes facing us.

Diagram showing the constellation Orion.

Orion as a stick-figure, with club and shield. The orange circle shows the location of the Horsehead Nebula within the constellation.

Photograph of the night sky where Orion is located.

Could you identify Orion the Hunter? For more information about where and when to look, go to Tonight's Sky and watch the February show.

The Greek myth behind the constellation Orion the Hunter.

Orion the Hunter appears in the winter sky, with his bow and his hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor, trailing behind him.

Greek mythology tells us that Orion was known as a talented hunter. His boast that he could rid the Earth of all the wild animals, however, angered the Earth goddess, Gaia. She sent a scorpion to defeat Orion. Orion tried to battle the scorpion, but he quickly realized that he could not shoot his arrow through the creature’s armor.

To avoid the scorpion, he jumped into the sea. It was then that Apollo (the Greek god of the Sun) decided to take action. He pointed out to his twin sister, Artemis, a small black object in the sea. Claiming it was a horrible villain, he dared her to shoot it with her bow and arrow. Artemis easily hit the target. When she swam out to retrieve her victim, however, she discovered that the villain was her friend, Orion.

Artemis begged the gods to bring Orion back to life, but they refused. So, instead, she put Orion’s picture in the sky so that she could always see him.

IMAGE CREDIT: Hevelius' drawing, courtesy U.S. Naval Observatory