The Orion Fly-By

The iconography associated with the Orion constellation is [quite literally] an open book but it’s pictorial narrative depends upon the pages being correctly sequenced.

Iconic Origins
Orion’s Belt and Orion’s Sword are iconic features of the night sky.

Orion is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. It is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky. It is named after Orion, a hunter in Greek mythology.

Ptolemy’s Almagest [dated to about 150 AD] provides a very specific and very iconic point of reference by stating Orion has a “pelt on the left arm”.

According to the descriptions in the star-table for Orion in the Almagest, there is a pelt on the figure’s left arm, as worn by huntsmen as an arm-guard153, and the figure wears a dagger.

153 Ptolemy p.383.

Painting The Stars In A Century Of Change – Part 1 – Page 151
Moya Catherine Carey
School of Oriental and African Studies – 2001

Click to access Tesi%20inglese%20al%20sufi%201367524_1.pdf Almagest – Ptolemy%2C Claudius %26amp%3B Toomer%2C G. J__5114.pdf

The Almagest is a 2nd-century Greek-language mathematical and astronomical treatise on the apparent motions of the stars and planetary paths, written by Claudius Ptolemy (c. AD 100 – c. 170).

Ptolemy set up a public inscription at Canopus, Egypt, in 147 or 148. N. T. Hamilton found that the version of Ptolemy’s models set out in the Canopic Inscription was earlier than the version in the Almagest. Hence the Almagest could not have been completed before about 150, a quarter-century after Ptolemy began observing.

Books VII and VIII cover the motions of the fixed stars, including precession of the equinoxes. They also contain a star catalogue of 1022 stars, described by their positions in the constellations, together with ecliptic longitude and latitude.

Wikipedia obligingly supplies imagery that might be [but most probably isn’t] from the 9th century that shows an iconic rear-view of Orion with an animal pelt on his left arm.

The Leiden Aratea, is an illuminated copy of an astronomical treatise by Germanicus [15 BC – AD 19] based on the Phaenomena of Aratus [c. 315 BC – 240 BC].

The manuscript was created in the region of Lorraine and has been dated to around 816.

Iconic Issues
However, Wikipedia states traditional Orion iconography “varied greatly”.

Even traditional depictions of Orion have varied greatly.

The works of Cicero form part of this “varied greatly” legacy by depicting Orion with an “animal skin aloft in his right hand”.

Cicero drew Orion in a similar fashion to the modern depiction.

The Hunter held an unidentified animal skin aloft in his right hand; his hand was represented by Omicron2 Orionis and the skin was represented by the 5 stars designated Pi Orionis. Kappa and Beta Orionis represented his left and right knees, while Eta and Lambda Leporis were his left and right feet, respectively.

As in the modern depiction, Delta, Epsilon, and Zeta represented his belt.

His left shoulder was represented by Alpha Orionis, and Mu Orionis made up his left arm. Lambda Orionis was his head and Gamma, his right shoulder.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC) was a Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher, who served as consul in the year 63 BC. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.

This continuity contradiction catapults Cicero into the realm of fraud, fakes and fabrications especially when in “Roman times Orion is more often seen holding a sword in his right hand”.

The thesis proffered here rests on the observation that the elements of the Mithraic cult icon represent, on one level, a coherent series of equatorial constellations. If so, Mithras there takes the place of Orion, and one may ask how much of the myth of Orion underlies the myth of Mithras.

With left hand Mithras holds the bull by the mouth, jerking the animal’s head backwards, while with his right hand he thrusts a sword into the bull’s shoulder.

In Roman times Orion is more often seen holding a sword in his right hand

Mithras-Orion: Greek Hero and Roman Army God
Michael Paul Speidel – 1980

Michael Paul Speidel (born 1937) is a German-born American military historian and archaeologist who specializes in the study of the Roman army and ancient warfare. He is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on ancient warfare.


The Farnese Atlas is a 2nd-century Roman marble copy of a Hellenistic sculpture of Atlas kneeling with the celestial spheres, not a globe, weighing heavily on his shoulders.

Overall, the excavation records suggest it’s highly unlikely a modestly damaged Farnese Atlas could have emerged from the Forum of Trajan or close to Trajan’s Column.

It’s very possible the Farnese family fabricated fabulous Roman relics that embodied their own stylistic and iconographic preferences.


Amongst these contradictions is the peculiarity that the [claimed] 9th century Leiden Aratea rear view of Orion with the “pelt on the left arm” contradicts the modern night sky.

This peculiarity could be accounted for by fakes, frauds, and faults


The Solar System performed a fly-past of the Orion constellation.

Side Bar
A fly-past of Orion provides a possible explanation for Ptolemy and al-Sufi failing to notice Messier 42 i.e. the Orion Nebula. Another possible explanation is that the Orion Nebula is very much closer to Solar System than the officially mandated 1,344 light-years and that the nebula only became visible about 400 years ago.

The Orion Nebula (also known as Messier 42, M42, or NGC 1976) is a diffuse nebula situated in the Milky Way, being south of Orion’s Belt in the constellation of Orion.

Neither Ptolemy’s Almagest nor Al Sufi’s Book of Fixed Stars noted this nebula, even though they both listed patches of nebulosity elsewhere in the night sky; nor did Galileo mention it, even though he also made telescopic observations surrounding it in 1610 and 1617.

This has led to some speculation that a flare-up of the illuminating stars may have increased the brightness of the nebula.

The first discovery of the diffuse nebulous nature of the Orion Nebula is generally credited to French astronomer Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, on November 26, 1610 when he made a record of observing it with a refracting telescope purchased by his patron Guillaume du Vair.

A fly-past of Orion [plus or minus Sirius] is heretical to the well tutored mind but it would help explain the very turbulent years between 900 and 1400 CE.


Episodes of “violent erosion” interspersed with periods of “comparative quiescence” provides the key to understanding the oscillations that are so very visible in the Greenland ice cores during the turbulent 500 years beginning around 900 CE at the Heinsohn Horizon and ending with the Hecker Horizon at 1400 CE.


A Sun-Sirius binary system would help explain why Sirius was once described as “burning” and “flaming” and [possibly] the appearance of the Roman god Sol Invictus.


Printed Iconography
The printed record shows Orion had performed an 180° about face by 1482.

De Astronomica, also known as Poeticon Astronomicon, is a book of stories whose text is attributed to “Hyginus”, though the true authorship is disputed.

However, the fact that the book lists most of the constellations north of the ecliptic in the same order as Ptolemy’s Almagest (written in the 2nd century) has led many to believe that a more recent Hyginus or Pseudo-Hyginus created the text.

The De Astronomica was not formally published until 1482, by Erhard Ratdolt in Venice.

Gaius Julius Hyginus (c. 64 BC – AD 17) was a Latin author, a pupil of the scholar Alexander Polyhistor, and a freedman of Caesar Augustus.

By 1603 Orion had switched arms so the animal pelt was on his right arm.

Johann Bayer (1572 – 1625) was a German lawyer and uranographer (celestial cartographer).

Bayer is most famous for his star atlas Uranometria Omnium Asterismorum (“Uranometry of all the asterisms”), which was first published in 1603 in Augsburg and dedicated to two prominent local citizens.

This was the first atlas to cover the entire celestial sphere.

It was based upon the work of Tycho Brahe and may have borrowed from Alessandro Piccolomini’s 1540 star atlas, De le stelle fisse (“Of the fixed stars”), although Bayer included an additional 1,000 stars.

The al-Sufi Manuscripts
In the domain of manuscripts the Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi produced striking Orion iconography in his Book of Fixed Stars of 964 AD.

‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi (903 – 986) was a Persian astronomer

He lived at the court of Emir Adud ad-Daula in Isfahan, Persia, and worked on translating and expanding Greek astronomical works, especially the Almagest of Ptolemy.

He contributed several corrections to Ptolemy’s star list and did his own brightness and magnitude estimates which frequently deviated from those in Ptolemy’s work, with only 55% of Al-Sufi’s magnitudes being identical to Ptolemy’s.

Eight hundred thirty-nine years had passed since Ptolemy had published the Almagest, so the longitudinal placement of the stars within constellations had changed. To account for the procession of the stars, Al-Sufi added 12° 42′ to the longitudes Ptolemy had previously suggested for the placement of the stars.

The Book of Fixed Stars is an astronomical text written by Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi around 964.

The dating of the Book of Fixed Stars is questionable because al-Sufi’s usage of 66 Years Per Degree of Precession represents a peculiar plateaux of 131 years in the historical record that spans the Heinsohn Horizon at 912 CE.

Al-Sūfī adopted a precession constant of 1° in 66 years.

Al-Sūfī’s Book of the Images of the Fixed Stars
Robert H. van Gent – Utrecht University – 2010

Click to access al%20sufi%20van%20gent.pdf

The curious aspect of this “ almost continuous series” of Nile low water records is that it’s not synchronised with Leona Libby’s Old Japanese Cedar chronology.

For example, the Arabian Horizon centred on 637 CE in Leona Libby’s chronology is dated to [about] 778 AD in the Nile low water chronology i.e. a 141 year mismatch.

A more radical interpretation of the Nile Level data based upon an Arabian Horizon alignment suggests there is a 160 year mismatch between the Christian and Islamic calendars.


Either way:

Al-Sufi’s iconography includes full-frontal mirror-images of Orion that are very different to the [mainly] rear-view images produced in later centuries.

An Arabic depiction of Orion, as seen from Earth (left) and a mirror-image, from a 13th-century copy of al-Ṣūfī’s Book of the Fixed Stars. In this version, Orion’s shield has become a long sleeve, typical of Islamic dress.

Johann Bayer’s Southern Star Chart
Star Tales – Ian Ridpath – 1989

The pages of this manuscript have [at some point] been rebound.
The rebinding has partially hidden the left foot of the right image.
Whether the pages are correctly sequenced is questionable.

The Bibliotheque National de France implies the mirror-images represent Orion in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

There are many illustrated copies of this treatise, commissioned in 965 by the Buryid Sultan ‘Adûd al-Dawla from the great astronomer ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sûfî.

In it he describes the constellation system inspired by the Greeks.

The manuscript, probably executed in the Seljuq period, presents each of the 48 known constellations from two different angles.

The constellation of Orion in the southern hemisphere is shown here.

Translated with (free version)

This is a very ripe red-herring.

Orion viewed from the Southern hemisphere is not a mirror-image.

From the Southern Hemisphere, any object or constellation that lies near the celestial equator (the imaginary line that divides the northern and southern halves of the sky) would appear both upside down and reversed left to right compared to a northern perspective.

Why do the constellations and the Moon appear upside down from the Southern Hemisphere?
Michael E. Bakich, Senior Editor – 24 Feb 2014
Astronomy – Kalmbach Media

Al-Sufi actually provides an explanation in his Book of Fixed Stars.

The first image portrays Orion as it appeared on a celestial globe.


The second image portrays Orion as it appeared in the night sky.

The Characteristics and Development of al-Ṣūfī’s Constellations Images

The Marsh 144 manuscript by al-Ṣūfī is one of the oldest illustrated Islamic manuscripts which we know of today.

One of al-Ṣūfī’s innovations in charting the stars was the production of dual illustrations of each of Ptolemy’s constellations. One illustration was as portrayed on a celestial globe. The other illustration as viewed directly in the night sky. At the end of the chapter on the constellation Ursa Minor, al-Ṣūfī explains why he produced two different sets of pictures and outlined the method of using these maps as follows:

“For every constellation we have drawn two pictures: one as it is projected on the globe and the other as it is seen in the heavens.

Hence we have covered both of the different cases, so there is no confusion for anyone who sees that what is viewed on the globe is different from what is in the heavens.

When we want to see the constellation as it (really) is we lift the book over our heads and we look at the second picture (in the book).

From beneath (the book) we are viewing (the constellation) as it is seen in the heavens.”

Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi and his book of the fixed stars: a journey of re-discovery – Ihsan Hafez – 2010 – James Cook University

Unfortunately, there is an issue with al-Sufi’s explanation.

If the manuscript has been rebound then there is a risk the unnumbered pages have accidentally [or otherwise] been placed in the wrong sequence.

For example:

The Marsh 144 manuscript was rebound in the “17th century” and some pages suggest the page order changed from left-to-right to a right-to-left Arabic sequence.

Shelfmark: Bodleian Library MS. Marsh 144

Description: 17th century red morocco Oriental binding with fore-edge flap and marbled pastedowns. | Al-Sufi’s Book of the Fixed Stars, a revision of Ptolemy’s Almagest with Arabic star names and drawings of the constellations. Dated 1009-10 (A.H. 400); colophon, p. 419. | Decoration: Illustrations in text. | Material: paper | Extent: 419 pages,t+,rsrs+0,rsps+10,fa+,so+ox%3Asort%5Easc,scids+,pid+c1caa84c-f6d2-483f-9eb4-2439cccdc801,vi+22eeaaae-5081-4e87-b559-7111e74c2a26

The Marsh 144 manuscript has attracted some negative comments.

The most famous copy of al-Suff’s treatise is the Bodleian Library manuscript Marsh 144, the earliest surviving illustrated book in Islamic art.

Both Brend and Soudavar have suggested that the images do not date from 1009-l0 AD, and Soudavar further suggests that the colophon statement is a forgery, added at a later period to increase the manuscript’s value.

Painting The Stars In A Century Of Change – Part 1 – Page 173
Moya Catherine Carey
School of Oriental and African Studies – 2001

Click to access Tesi%20inglese%20al%20sufi%201367524_1.pdf

In publishing, a colophon is a brief statement containing information about the publication of a book such as the place of publication, the publisher, and the date of publication.

None of these comments suggest the Orion images are incorrectly sequenced.

That’s because the “second picture” [page 326] is as “seen in the heavens”.

This is a surprise because [at least] one copy of al-Sufi’s Book of Fixed Stars suggests the Solar System performed a fly-by of Orion [sometime] after al-Sufi finished the book.

This copy, from the collections of the Library of Congress, was produced somewhere in south or central Asia, circa 1730, and is an exact copy of a manuscript, now lost, prepared for Ulug Beg of Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan) in 1417 [820 A.H.].

Book of the Constellations of the Fixed Stars
Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Umar al-Sufi
World Digital Library – U S Library of Congress

The data indicates the Sol Invictus configuration began to unravel in 880 CE.


But, as always, review the evidence and draw your own iconic conclusions.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Astrophysics, Books, Catastrophism, Earth, Hecker Horizon, Heinsohn Horizon, History, Old Japanese Cedar Tree, Roman Chronology, Science, Solar System, Uniformitarianism. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Orion Fly-By

  1. Patrick Donnelly says:

    Thank you for all this wonderful research!

    The Leiden Aratea clearly shows the sword stars above the waist, as we see them from Australia, today.

    Evidence of North becoming South? During which time, the Sun would at some points on the globe, have appeared to have stood still.

  2. malagabay says:

    You are very welcome. Enjoy

  3. malagabay says:

    It looks like Orion has changed.

    And is still changing.

  4. Yry says:

    A most elegant – imaged – sleuth work and yes, the so-called “stars” are so much closer.
    Gratefully, Yry.

  5. A couple of comments:
    Reading up some on Ptolemy revealed that the man is not a reliable source. On the Almagest see this He is also accused of obfuscating the zodiac with then modern renaming of stars/constellations. That is besides inventing the geocentric planetary system when it had been known for millennia that it was heliocentric.
    Therefore one needs to dig deeper and further back in time to find the earlier constellation asterisms. In fact earlier star configurations of the zodiac were based on the agrarian cycles (eg Bootes the reaper is followed by Virgo the virgin grain, and followed by the plough. Both Bootes and Orion are wielding a reaping hook (the reaping hook – with the threshing flail- appears also in the hands of Osiris/Adonis on early Maltese coinage, and wrongly seen as sceptre in Pharaonic hands; or perhaps the shepherd’s hook which harks back to Dumuzi the shepherd from Mesopotamian origins, an earlier obfuscation since the myth from which it arises is based on the cereal cultivation; the grain cycle).
    Orion follows the Pleiades, which from/in Hesiod’s day were the heavenly indicators for ploughing and harvesting. (It was also one of my first few lessons from my peasant grandpa) See
    Ptolemy is said to have invented the Tropical Zodiac, with fixed dates along the solar year. Whereas the Sidereal zodiac moves with precession. Thus the difference in the dates, and allowing or starting from Ptolemy’s day, can give the earliest origins of the zodiac. If I recall correctly, that predates 2345bce when the tilt of the earth changed (see Dodwell). Thus there appears to have been many earlier changes to the constellation asterisms. In fact the earlier semitic/arabian? star names are mostly agrarian, whereas the Greek related names are warriors.

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