Scorpius - Constellation of the Month
Image Adapted by Celestial Events SA from Stellarium
Scorpius is among the most recognisable constellations in the sky, and one of the few that actually looks like its namesake! It is one of the oldest constellations and was known to the Sumerians about 5000 years ago before being catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolomy in his original 48 constellations.
Scorpius’s mythology is directly associated with Orion. Orion was a mighty hunter but lacked respect for nature. Gaia, goddess of nature, became upset with Orion’s actions and summoned a giant scorpion to teach him a lesson. A great battle ensued and both parties were honoured for their part by being immortalised in the stars.
Orion and Scorpius are at opposite sides of the celestial sphere. This ensures that the 2 mortal enemies never have to share the same area of sky.
When Scorpius rises in the east, Orion sets in the west, giving the impression that the great hunter is fleeing from his enemy for eternity!
Antares is the brightest star in Scorpius and is easily recognisable by its orange colour. Antares is classified as a Red Supergiant, a massive old star that is reaching the end of its life and is predicted to be around 1.4 billion kms in diameter. Antares is so large that if it were to replace the Sun, it would envelop all of the planets up to, and including, Jupiter!
Antares is positioned close to the ecliptic plane: the path that the Sun, Moon and planets seem to take across the sky. At certain times, the Red Planet, Mars passes close by the orange Antares and it is this conjunction that forms the origin of the name.
The Greek equivalent of Mars was Ares, and Antares means the ‘Rival of Ares’ and refers to the fact that sometimes the 2 similarly coloured objects seem to invade each other’s personal space!
Image Credit: Wikipedia
DEEP SKY OBJECTS
Due to its position close to the galactic core, Scorpius has many deep sky objects for the amateur observers, including 3 Messier Objects.
Messier 7 - The Ptolomy Cluster
Image Credit: ESO
An open cluster of around 80 young stars situated 1000 light years from Earth visible to the naked eye close to the sting of Scorpius’s tail.
Messier 6 – The Butterfly Cluster
Image Credit: Sergio Eguivar, Beunos Aires Skies
An unrelated open cluster found very close to M7. The young stars in this cluster resemble the shape of a butterfly. A hazy patch can been seen unaided but a telescope is required to see resolve the butterfly shape. M6 is around 1600 light years from Earth
Image Credit: ESO
A globular cluster containing hundreds of thousands of stars found close to the red giant, Antares. Despite being over 7000 light years away, M4 can be easily spotted in the same field of view as Antares with binoculars.