A visit with the summer scorpion in our Arizona skies
With the heat of the summer upon us, we get to look skyward and find the celestial replica of one of Arizona’s native arthropods, the scorpion.
I ask your attention be brought to the night sky, as we look for the zodiac constellation of Scorpius the scorpion.
One of the oldest of the zodiac signs and constellations in the heavens, Scorpius is one of the few constellations in the night sky which actually looks like what it is named for.
So old that it was one of the original 48 constellations in the night sky named by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy.
Here is what the famous star group looks like to the naked eye, on a clear and moonless night.
With at least 15 bright stars, the outline of the scorpion is quite easy to see from our Arizona skies.
The months of June, July and August, offer some of the best times to view this constellation embedded deep in the Milky Way.
The best times to view Scorpius, in Dr.Sky’s opinion, would be during the last week of June and the later part of July, especially near new moon.
At this time, the darkest of skies are possible.
The constellation has one major bright star – the supergiant star we call Antares.
Antares is an old red supergiant star that is located some 550 light years from your eyes and is the 15th-brightest star in the sky.
Antares has 12 times the mass of our sun and is so large that its diameter would reach out as far as Jupiter is from our sun.
Here is a view of Antares from one of the largest telescopes on Earth.
The star may be near its own end of life.
By comparison, here is just how large this star is relative to our own sun.
Not bad for a star that is only 12 million years old and is near its end of life cycle.
The constellation of Scorpius is a great place to explore on a dark moonless night with a pair of binoculars, as the star clouds and related nebulae and star dust is quite amazing.
I have personally spent many hours enjoying this sacred region of the zodiac and Milky Way and I hope you will too.
Here is a link to some amazing sights along the real estate of Scorpius.
Finally, follow the spine of Scorpius and move on to the tail.
Here you will find two major stars which mark the stinger of the scorpion, Shaula and Lesath.
These two stars are embedded deeply in the Milky Way; just to the left of these stars you will be able to view a most amazing open cluster of stars known as Messier 7.
This is an incredible star cluster, some 25 light years from your eye.
There are some 80 stars all clustered within a degree or so of the sky. M7 has been known since ancient times and is also known as the Ptolemy Cluster.
With all this and more, you will be stung with the wonders of Scorpius the scorpion and will never need to call pest control!
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.
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