At this time of year, the constellation Orion the Hunter predominates over the southeast sky in early evening. Notice its short, straight row of three medium-bright stars. These stars represent Orion’s Belt. On old sky maps, Orion is holding up a shield, fending off the constellation Taurus the Bull, which rose earlier. The feature photo at top shows how Orion appears at early evening at mid-northern latitudes.
In the lore of the sky, Orion is also connected to the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion, which – at this time of year – can be found rising in the southeast shortly before dawn. Tomorrow morning, on Sunday, January 26, look for the waning crescent moon close to Antares, the Scorpion’s brightest star. And as darkness ebbs into dawn, you might even catch the two stars marking the Scorpion’s stinger looming over the southwest horizon. These stars – Shaula and Lesath – rise about four minutes earlier each day, so even if you miss them tomorrow, you should be able to view the stinger sometime soon.
So Orion is up in the evening now, and Scorpius is up before dawn. Next summer, when Orion is up before dawn, Scorpius will be out in the evening. Orion and Scorpius never appear in the sky at the same time.
Legend has it that Orion the Hunter was very vain. He boasted that no animal on Earth could kill him. But the Scorpion did sting Orion, and the Hunter died of its poison. Now, according to this ancient myth, the bitter hatred between these two constellations is so great that they can never been seen in the sky simultaneously.
We today have a different interpretation of the fact that Orion and Scorpion are never in the sky together. Scorpius is located in the direction toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Orion is located in the opposite direction. They’re never in the sky at once simply because they’re located in opposite directions in space, as seen from Earth.