Betelgeuse and Rigel are two bright stars in the constellation of Orion, the hunter. (Image credit: Starry Night)

This week, the grandest and most spectacular of all constellations can be found due south and standing upright around 7 p.m. local time, and dominating our winter skies like — to use the words of astronomer Robert H, Baker — “a gigantic piece of jewelry.” 

It’s the “great hunter” or “celestial warrior,” Orion, the most brilliant of the constellations and visible from every inhabited part of the Earth. As is also the case with the mighty Hercules, the figure of Orion has been associated in virtually all ancient cultures with great national heroes, warriors or demigods. Yet, in contrast to Hercules, who was credited with a detailed series of exploits, Orion seems to us a vague and shadowy figure. The ancient mythological stories of Orion are so many and so confused that it is almost impossible to choose among all of them.