Seeing Scorpius rising a reminder of the beauty of Dunedin

Photo: Ian Griffin
Photo: Ian Griffin
I sat beside Hoopers Inlet a few nights ago.

It was remarkably still with only occasional splooshes from local wildlife piercing the pervading silence. It was well after midnight, and I was alone with my thoughts, enjoying the star reflections on the inlet’s calm waters. In the east the constellation Scorpius was rising, the familiar fishhook shape just clearing the horizon.

Whenever I see Scorpius rising, I always turn around to farewell my old friend, the constellation Orion. Orion and Scorpius are opposite each other in the sky; as one rises, the other sets.

The story of Scorpius and Orion being on opposite sides of the sky comes from Greek mythology. According to legend, Orion was a giant huntsman known for his exceptional strength. He was the son of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Euryale, one of the Gorgons. Orion’s hunting prowess earned him fame and admiration. However, his arrogance often led him to boast of his abilities and even challenge the gods.

Meanwhile, Scorpius, also known as Scorpio, was a giant scorpion sent by Gaia, the Earth goddess, to kill Orion. This was because Orion’s boastfulness had offended both Gaia and Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. Artemis, who had a close relationship with Orion, felt betrayed by his arrogance and sought retribution.

One version of the myth recounts that Orion boasted to Artemis that he could kill every creature on Earth. To protect her beloved animals, Artemis sent Scorpius to confront Orion. In a fierce battle, the scorpion stung Orion with its poisonous tail, mortally wounding him.

After Orion’s death, Zeus, the king of the gods, was moved by Artemis’ grief and decided to honour Orion and Scorpius in the night sky. He placed them on opposite sides of the celestial sphere to ensure they would never again meet and cause further conflict.

On this night I was delighted to see the familiar pattern of Orion’s belt stars setting behind Hereweka. I couldn’t resist the chance to capture the moment with my camera. I was reminded, once again, of the beauty of the place I call my home.