Friday, March 07, 2008


Among a zillion stars, scattered over the dark sky, forming as many forms as your imagination lets you. Among the predetermined icons that the stars outline. Among lions, fishes and question marks, one constellation captures my eyes everytime I look up. Visible for most part of the year, it has got some magic about it. On the banks of Eridanus, his shield thrust forward and his club raised high; with his faithful hunting dogs, Canis Major & Minor, he prepares to hunt the charging Taurus watched at by the Gemini twins. Perhaps it's the near symmetric figure or maybe because that's my Moon Sign or because the pose is similar to my favourite warriors - Spartans, or simply because its the only constellation I properly recognize...

The Orion, is more than the seven stars. In fact, his head, a star known as "π3 Ori" is the nearest to Earth. Only a 26.3 years' drive at the speed of light! Its left shoulder is a red giant (if you know what that is), named α Ori. And its left knee is a large blue-white star, one of the brightest in the night sky, β Ori. Only after I researched about the constellation did I know it has a lot of stars to its name. Two of them are known to have planets too. Scientists name the stars of a constellation with Greek alphabets in them. However, all the stars might not have contributed identifying it as a constellation. This group of stars also helps locate other stars/constellations like Sirius, Pollux and Castor and some more I don't know the names of.

There are even a few nebulae on his sword, which are quite distinct from a star even to the naked eye. And a recent discovery by NASA's Spitzer telescope is a nest of stars near his crown. Think seeing stars in your head!! It is general practice to locate stars using the constellations. They're mostly not in the same plane, or even near the constellation in question. Kind of like windows to the vast ocean of stars. The nest of stars, for instance, is actualy 1300+ years old. So, whenever you look at stars, you're looking into the past :-)

Orion is the oldest known constellation. Almost, every one of the early civilizations have recognized it, albeit in different forms. Like, a shephard for the Summerians. But, for most part, he was a hunter. The constellation, formed 1.5 million years ago, hasn't changed much owing to the slow movement of the stars; will remain so for another 1 or 2 million years, watching us from the skies like a keeper at night.
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