Orion Constellation Research Papers

While the Orion constellation is named after the hunter in Greek mythology, it is anything but stealthy. Orion, which is located on the celestial equator, is one of the most prominent and recognizable constellations in the sky and can be seen throughout the world.

Locating Orion the Hunter

Orion is clearly visible in the night sky from November to February. Orion is in the southwestern sky if you are in the Northern Hemisphere or the northwestern sky if you are in the Southern Hemisphere. It is best seen between latitudes 85 and minus 75 degrees. Its right ascension is 5 hours, and its declination is 5 degrees.

Alnilam, Mintaka and Alnitak, which form Orion’s belt, are the most prominent stars in the Orion constellation. Betelgeuse, the second brightest star in Orion, establishes the right shoulder of the hunter. Bellatrix serves as Orion's left shoulder.

The Orion Nebula — a formation of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases rather than a star — is the middle "star" in Orion’s sword, which hangs off of Orion's Belt. The Horsehead Nebula is also nearby.

Other stars in the constellation include Hatsya, which establishes the tip of Orion's sword that hangs off the belt, and Meissa, which forms Orion's head. Saiph serves as Orion's right knee. Rigel, Orion’s brightest star, forms the hunter's left knee.

With one exception, all of the main stars in Orion are bright young blue giants or supergiants, ranging in distance from Bellatrix (243 light-years) to Alnilam (1,359 light-years). The Orion Nebula is farther away than any of the naked eye stars at a distance of about 1,600 light-years. One light-year is the distance light travels in a single year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).

The exception is the star Betelgeuse, which is a red giant and one of the largest stars known. It is also the only star in the sky large enough and close enough to have been imaged as a disk in the Hubble Space Telescope. Observers with a keen eye should be able to see the difference in color between Betelgeuse and all the other stars in Orion. [Space Photos: Orion Nebula & Other Stunning Views]

Exoplanet possibilities

The constellation of the hunter has also proven a fertile hunting ground for extra-solar planets, or exoplanets, planets beyond the solar system. Here are a few of the planets (or potential planets) that have been discovered in stars that fall within Orion's boundaries in the Earth's sky:

The star CVSO 30 is 1,200 light-years away and likely hosts a couple of potential planets. In 2012, the Very Large Telescope in Chile managed to image possible exoplanet CVSO 30c directly, an incredible feat given that CVSO 30 is roughly 280 times farther than Earth is to the nearest star system (Alpha Centauri). CVSO 30c (if it exists) is a gas giant that orbits its star at a distance of 660 astronomical units (Earth-sun distances) and makes an orbit every 27,000 years. The other candidate planet is gas giant CVSO 30b, which by contrast is extremely close — just 0.008 AU from its star.

A Jupiter-size potential exoplanet, PTFO8-8695b, is about 1,100 light-years from Earth and (if it exists) is so close to its star that its outer layers are being ripped away from the rest of the planet. The star's system showed high-energy hydrogen emissions that can't be explained by stellar activities or features, according to astronomers.

There are a few other probable planets in Orion as well, although their existence may be proved or disproved with more observations. These include HD 38529 b and HD 38529 c (two gas giants orbiting in a system with a huge debris disk), HD 38858 b (a gas giant orbiting in the habitable zone of its star) and HD 37605 b (a gas giant that orbits extremely close to its parent star.)


There are several versions of the myth of Orion, but one of the more common iterations is that Orion proclaimed himself to be the greatest hunter in the world, much to the dismay of Hera, the wife of Zeus. She had a scorpion kill him, and Zeus put Orion into the sky as consolation. In another version, Orion is blinded for raping Merope, a granddaughter of the god Dionysus. He has to travel East to seek the sun's rays to recover his sight.

While the name Orion is steeped in Greek mythology, many cultures have been influenced by the story of this constellation. Orion has also associated with an Egyptian pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty nameed Unas. In Hungary, Orion is known as (magic) Archer (Íjász), or Scyther (Kaszás). Scandinavians refer to Orion's Belt as Frigg's Distaff.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Howell, Space.com contributor.

Constellations ancient and modern grace the skies year round. Let's see what you know about the star patterns that appear overhead every night.

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Constellation Quiz: What's Your Cosmic IQ?

Constellations ancient and modern grace the skies year round. Let's see what you know about the star patterns that appear overhead every night.

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Constellations of Compassion 3 – For Children

June 25, 2013

By: Monica Worline, Jane Dutton

Originally posted on Compassion at Work Blog

This is the third of a series of three articles co-created by the CompassionLab and Soaringwords for children and adults grappling with serious illness. This is dedicated especially to children. 

Hope and Light

For centuries, people have found hope as they gazed at the night sky and were able to recognize clusters of stars known as constellations. In ancient times, people actually relied on constellations in the night sky as a celestial navigation system, the original global positioning device.

When you are in the hospital it is easy to feel sad.  We invite you to think about constellations and create SoaringConstellations messages and artwork to decorate hospital rooms in children’s hospitals around the world.  Just like constellations have been giving travelers direction, clarity and comfort when they looked up into the night sky, you will become a source of light and hope when you make a SoaringConstellation message and artwork for an ill child.  This kind action will help him or her feel cared for and supported.

Have you have ever looked out your window at the stars? Or have you ever stood outside at night and looked up at the sky?  Recognizing constellations helps us to find patterns in the stars. In fact, the word Zodiac actually means circle of animals, because many of the constellations are shaped like animals.

Here are some of our favorite animal constellations.

Canis Major, the Greater Dog, is located at the feet of the constellation Orion, the Great Hunter. The single star Sirius (which means dog) is the brightest star in the sky, twice as large as the Sun. It is also the sixth closest star to Earth, 8.65 light years away. Dogs are often called “man’s best friend” because of their loyalty, so we think this is a great constellation to share with an ill child.

Delphinus is the dolphin constellation. Dolphins are really smart and like to play in groups so the playful energy of this constellation is sure to bring a smile to hospitalized children.

Cancer is the crab constellation. This is a useful constellation for hospitalized children to think about because even though crabs are funny to watch as they zip along the ocean, they move very quickly and get things done.

Taurus is the Bull, a good constellation to give strength to a hospitalized child because the bull is tough and strong.

Aquila is the eagle constellation, a high soaring bird.  This is a wonderful constellation to inspire an ill child to let his or her imagination fly above daily hospital procedures and think about adventures in the great outdoors.  Aquila is perched in the Milky Way.

Ursa Major, the Great Bear, is a cool constellation because everyone loves a big bear hug.  An interesting fact about Ursa Major is that it has another more famous constellation right inside of it which is called the Big Dipper because it is shaped in the form of a big dipping spoon.  Everyone likes a big bear hug and the dipper can pour creativity and kindness into someone’s day.

Pegasus is the winged horse who carried Zeus’ thunderbolts. Four stars in Pegasus form the Great Square of Pegasus. Just like Orion’s belt this cluster of stars is easy to find and useful for getting your bearings.

Lepus is the hare (rabbit) constellation located at the feet of Orion the hunter, and right in front of the nose of Canis Major, the hunting dog.  It is a bright crimson star, the color is intensified by a surrounding cloud of dust.  Rabbits are cuddly and soft and their noses twitch in the cutest way.

Leo, the lion, is a group of large, bright stars that was recognized as a constellation 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia.  Leo contains many bright galaxies.  Lions are regarded as the “king of the jungle” so a lion constellation will inspire strength and courage.

We hope that you will enjoy learning more about these animal constellations and sharing your creativity with hospitalized children. By playing with this idea of constellations we hope that you will become a guiding light to others and also find kindness from others in your travels.

Soaringwords founder Lisa Buksbaum with Jane Dutton of CompassionLab

One of the CompassionLab’s community partners isSoaringwords. Soaringwords is a non-profit organization whose mission is to lessen the impact of serious illness by connecting ill children and their families to a community of compassionate volunteers who inspire them to “Never give up!” Soaringwords embraces ill children and families by providing fun, creative and educational activities both in person and online which cultivate joy, hope, laughter and healing.

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