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February 8, 2014

Orion is a big constellation with a big story — one that spans several other constellations. Some of them surround the hunter, while another is on the opposite side of the sky — a separation designed to keep two mortal enemies apart.

Orion is high in the southeast as night falls. The bright orange star Betelgeuse marks his shoulder, with brighter blue-white Rigel as his foot, and his three-star belt between them.

In mythology, Orion was one of the big celebrities of his day. He was strong, handsome, and a great hunter. Two of his hunting dogs follow him across the sky — Canis Major and Canis Minor. They’re pursuing Lepus, the rabbit, which bounds below Orion’s feet.

But Orion’s celebrity eventually went to his head, and it cost him his life.

There are different versions of his demise, but they end the same way. One says that Orion boasted that he could kill any animal on Earth. That didn’t sit well with the Earth goddess, who sent a giant scorpion after him — a scorpion that stung him to death. Another version of the story says he was pursuing the goddess Diana a little too vigorously. So her brother, Apollo, dispatched the scorpion to protect her virtue. Either way, Orion met his fate through the scorpion’s sting.

The gods placed both Orion and Scorpius in the stars — but halfway around the sky from each another. So Orion dominates the winter sky, while his mortal enemy, the scorpion, rules the nights of summer.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013

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