The constellation Scorpius the Scorpion is at its height for late evening star watching. This region of the heavens offers a rich exhibit of stars bright and dim, on the preceding edge of the great Milky Way Band of summer.

In late July, early August, look due south. For mid-northern America, Scorpius never reaches very high up in the sky.

Its most prominent star is the first magnitude, blazing red-orange star Antares, referred to as the “heart” of the scorpion. Antares is a red supergiant star, so big that it would engulf Earth and Mars, if it replaced the Sun (don’t worry, that’s not even contemplated). Antares is so far its light takes 550 years to reach our eyes. A fainter star orbits Antares, making this a “binary” star system.

This year (2019), however, the brilliant planet Jupiter is situated to the upper left, far outshining any star in the night sky. Jupiter shines bright and white.

If you have a lake or pond in front of you, take a look for Jupiter’s reflection. With dark surroundings its easy to see reflections of the brighter stars as well.

The star pattern of the Scorpion lends itself to a figure of the creature by which it is named. Conspicuous stars trace the scorpion’s “claws” to the upper right of Antares. Another string of easily seen stars trace to the lower left of Antares, a curving tail.

Two of the stars in the “tail” are quite close together; they are nicknamed the “Cat Eyes.”

On a dark night, scan the constellation with a pair of binoculars. You will be able to see much more. Two small “hazy spots” can be picked up - teeming globular star clusters, a beautiful sight in even a small to medium sized telescope. They are “M4,” positioned a short space to the right of Antares, and “M80,” to the upper right before the stars of the “scorpion’s claws.”

Way down the “tail” and to the upper left of the “Cat Eyes” you can find two nice open star clusters, M7 and M6 (a little higher up).

Most of our fanciful constellations, making connect-the-star patterns among the stars, are rooted in interesting legends and myths. The ancient Greeks said the Scorpion arise from the earth at the command of Juno. The latter, so incensed at Orion the Hunter’s conceit, ordered the Scorpion to attack Orion in the foot. Having caused Orion’s death, both Scorpion and Orion were honored with a place among the stars, but they were placed so far apart, the constellations are never in the sky at the same time. (Orion is on the opposite side of the sky and is a prominent winter evening constellation.)

Teapot
Looking to the left of the constellation Scorpius is the familiar “Teapot” pattern among the constellation Sagittarius the Archer. Positioned right in front of the billowing Milky Way, in the direction of the very center of our galaxy, the Milky Way can be imagined as “steam” rising from the “Teapot sprout.” A dark night with little light pollution is needed to see this well.

The planet Saturn appears like a bright star to the left of the Teapot this year. The region is also packed with stellar delights for binoculars and backyard telescopes.

New Moon is on July 31.

Keep looking up!
Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at news@neagle.com. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.