Constellation of the Month: Orion the Great Hunter

David Baumgartner writes that Orion is the brilliant central constellation in the winter evening sky.

This article was contributed by David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.

Everyone who looks up into the night sky will notice stars that seem to form in patterns, called “constellations.” Eventually you will come to know and pick out your favorite or favorites. Sometimes you look at certain constellations and wonder how in the world did they come up with a name like that? Back in ancient times people would look up into the dark skies and feel compelled to form these stars into groups and give them names. Well they didn’t give them names to correspond to what they looked like, but names for Gods and warriors and such. For how would you name the big “W” Queen Cassiopeia? I guess they had a keener sense of imagination than I. But not so with all of the names, for instance. Leo the Lion, Gemini the Twins, Cygnus the Swan, and of course Orion the Great Hunter, our constellation of the month, all look somewhat like they look in the sky.  Stretch your imagination a little and you get a little idea of what our ancestors were looking for. 

Look up any winter evening and you will see Orion, in the middle of the sky. His shoulders and knees are marked by four bright stars. Across the middle of this rectangle is his belt of three stars. Seven bright stars in all. Orion has more of these bright stars than any other constellation. Many people believe this is the Big Dipper because of the large square, but not to be. One of the most exquisite objects to point your telescope at is the Orion Nebula; this too will verify your favoritism for this constellation. Don’t look at this nebula first off in the night, for you may not look at anything else in the sky for the rest of the evening. I have more photos of the Orion Nebula than any other object, except maybe my dog.

Okay, enough for being nice. In Greek legends, Orion was a great hunter. He boasted that he would soon rid the world of all wild animals. The Gods did not want this to happen, so they sent an enormous scorpion to sting him. He died, but the Gods were kinder to him after that: they put his picture on one side of the sky, and the scorpion’s picture far away on the opposite side of the sky. Now Orion keeps as far away as he can from the scorpion. So as soon as Scorpius rises in the east, Orion sets in the west just to keep his distance.

Just as Orion is the brilliant central constellation of the winter evening sky, so Scorpius is the brilliant central constellation of the summer evening sky.

So don’t miss the Orion Hunter, it comes up later in the evening, but later on he will be up all night for you to see.

Clear Skies.

January Upcoming Events

Jan. 17: Moon passes 4° south of Neptune

Jan. 20: First Quarter Moon

Jan. 21: Moon passes 5° south of Mars

Jan. 21: Moon passes 3° south of Uranus

Jan. 21: Moon is sat apogee (251,258 miles from Earth)

Jan. 21: Mars passes 1.7° north of Uranus

Jan. 28: Full Moon


David Baumgartner

I am a local fella. Local schools from Fremont, Sacred Heart, Santa Anita, Hollister High, to San Benito Jr. Collage (Now Gavilan). Then joined the US Air Force where I specialized in Airborne Radar. Married my high school sweetheart JoAnne., shortly after three children arrived; Cindi, Michael, and Lisa. Somehow we ended up with nine Grandchildren.  Went on to San Luis Obispo, Guesta, Collages, and on to Univ. of New Mexico. Came back to Hollister. Opened up Three Pet Stores; Dave's Aquarium Pets & Supplies in SLO, Watsonvile, and Hollister. The family spent two and a half years running a ranch up in Oregon. Made our way back to Hollister.  Got my Real Estate Licence in 1982, opened my own office in 93'. In the mean time raised Swans and revitalized my old hobby of Astronomy.  In 2001 I was named Chamber of Commence Man of the Year. I think I was the only one nominated. I don't care, I'm taking it. Now in December of 2018 I retired. Not sure if I was forced out or not. Non the less, I am retired, at 77 years of age I think it was time. Now the last thing I have to do is buy a coffin. I hear COSCO sells them now. But the only drawback is; you have to buy them in lots of six.  I guess I could buy them for the whole family. Not that funny, but thrifty.