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Orion's Belt    
 
 
 

If sometimes, on a bright night, whilst gazing on the inexpressible beauty of the stars, you have thought of the Creator of all things; if you have asked yourself who it is that has dotted heaven with such flowers, and why visible things are even more useful than beautiful; if sometimes, in the day, you have studied the marvels of light, if you have raised yourself by visible things to the invisible Being, then you are a well prepared auditor, and you can take your place in this august and blessed amphitheater. - Basil of Caesarea (circa A.D. 360)

During February and into March, the evening sky is dominated by that wonderous constellation, Orion the Hunter. Orion is the brightest constellation in the night sky, and perhaps the best known star pattern after the Big Dipper. Orion includes several "first magnitude" stars, among the brightest in the celestial sky.

OrionOrion is easily found by the three stars of "Orion's Belt." These three stars are of equal brightness, equally spaced apart and lying almost directly in a line. Orion's Belt defines the middle of Orion, and it's easy to see two bright stars above the Belt, and two below that form general shape of a man. In this way, Orion is easily visible from just about everywhere, even from locations under the bright city lights.

As seen from a rural, dark-sky location, other stars can be seen that give the appearance an extended arm, as if holding a shield, and another arm, appearing to hold a club. The constellation Orion is seen facing off in a neverending battle against the constellation Taurus the Bull. This constellation is seens as a distinct triangle of stars including the bright star Aldebaran, the reddish "eye" of the Bull. Taurus is seen to the northeast of Orion (the upper right as seen from the northern hemisphere, and the lower left as seen from the lands of the southern hemisphere.)

In my opinion, Orion's Belt is evidence in the sky of the existence of a Creator God. There are about 6000 stars visible to the unaided eye in the entire sky. Of these, there are only about 70 stars that are brighter than the stars of the Belt. And these three stars are so obviously similar in brightness and so perfectly spaced and lined up. I'm no statistician, but it seems highly unlikely to me that three stars would present themselves in this way, assuming the strictly random presumptions of science! And there are other unlikely star patterns, but that is another story....

In our era, Orion's Belt lies nearly directly on the celestial equator, the mid-circle in the sky between the north and south celestial poles. In this way, Orion's Belt would pass directly overhead as seen from the Earth's equator. And for this reason also, Orion is the only prominent constellation of which at least a portion can be seen from everywhere on the Earth, from the North Pole to the South Pole.

Just as the stars of Orion's Belt are no coincidence, it's also no coincidence that remarkable Orion is one of the few constellations named in the Bible:

Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them upon the face of the earth: the LORD is his name. - Amos 5:8


For more information about topics from Classical Astronomy, please check out Signs & Seasons, a homeschool astronomy curriculum!


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