Orion’s Belt is an asterism of three stars in the Orion constellation. It is one of the most well-known constellations in the sky. The belt makes it easily discernible to the human eye. Because it is clearly visible, Orion’s Belt was known throughout the ancient world. No single astronomer discovered it.
Features of Orion and Orion’s Belt
The Orion constellation suggests the figure of a hunter with a belt around his waist. He appears to hold a club and shield in his hands. One of the stars representing the hunter’s legs is Rigel. It is the sixth brightest star in the heavens. Because of their brightness, Orion’s stars can be used to locate other stars such as Castor and Pollux and Sirius.
The three stars of Orion’s Belt are named Alnitak, Alniham and Mintaka. Christian believers have identified them with ether the Three Magi who visited the child Jesus, and the three women named Mary in the Bible: Mary of Magdala, Mary of Cleopas and Mary the mother of the apostles James and John.
Orion in Mythology
Orion was known by various names to different peoples. To the Greeks it was as either the Warrior or the Hunter. The Chinese grouped Orion with Taurus as the White Tiger. But the Hindus said Orion was Prajapati who lusted after his own daughter. Sirius killed him and both of them were placed in the sky. Orion’s Belt was supposed to be the arrow that killed Prajapati. In ancient Egypt, Orion was identified with their chief god Osiris.
Even though there’s no proof they discovered Orion first, the Greeks gave it its present name. In one Greek myth, Orion displeased the gods with his behavior. So one of them sent a scorpion to sting him to death. Both became constellations. In other stories, Orion was killed by either Apollo or Artemis. By all accounts he was a mighty hunter.
Discovery of Orion’s Belt and the Pyramids
Egyptian-born author Robert Bauval appears to have discovered a connection between Orion’s Belt and the Giza pyramids. Bauval had long been fascinated with the pyramids. He wondered why the three of them were slightly out of line when viewed from above. One night he and his family went out camping in the desert with some friends. Bauval’s friend, an astronomer, remarked that the Orion’s Belt asterism was slightly misaligned. Thinking he had found the answer, Bauval did a lot of research to test his theory. He later published a book, “The Orion Mystery” in 1994. Bauval claims in this book that the Giza pyramids were built by the ancient Egyptians to mirror Orion’s Belt. According to his theory, the Egyptians focused their worship on the stars, especially the constellation Orion. When the pharaoh died he was supposed to ascend to the stars whence he came.
Orion’s Belt and the rest of the constellation are best viewed in winter in the northern hemisphere. Or summer in the southern hemisphere.