Constellation of the Month: Scorpius

David Baumgartner writes about how a scorpion ended up as one of the larger designs in the sky.
David Baumgartner in an observatory in his old backyard. Photo provided by David Baumgartner.
David Baumgartner in an observatory in his old backyard. Photo provided by David Baumgartner.

This article was contributed by David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.

No one ever seems to like scorpions. No one even seems to say anything nice about scorpions. Well, when it comes to the constellations, Scorpius is one of my favorites. Not just because that is my sign, but also because it is one of the few constellations that even looks like its namesake. It is one of the larger designs in the sky. Scorpius used to be even bigger, until the Romans decided there should be 12 constellations in the zodiac, instead of 11, so they made the two claws into the arms of the balance in Libra.

The bright star, Antares, is the scorpion’s heart. Antares is one of the reddest stars in the sky. Its name means that it is the “rival of Mars.” As most know, Mars is red as well, and when it goes along the ecliptic just north of Antares, they look as if they are competing with each other.

Orion was a great hunter. He boasted that he would soon rid the world of wild animals. The Gods did not want this to happen, so they sent an enormous scorpion to sting him. He died, but the gods were kinder to him after that: so they put his picture on one side of the sky, and the scorpion far away on the other side. Now Orion keeps as far as he can from the scorpion in the sky. As soon as Orion sees Scorpius rising in the east, he sets in the west.

Just as Orion is the brilliant central constellation of the winter evening sky, so Scorpius is the brilliant central constellation of the summer evening sky.

Take your binoculars to this scorpion in the sky; there is an awful lot to see there. Make sure you stay away for the Scorpion’s stinger, you just never know.

Clear skies.

Sky Watch

July 17: Moon is 3° north of Venus

July 18: Moon is 4° north of Mercury

July 20: New Moon

July 25: Moon is at perigee (228,889 miles from Earth)

July 27: First Quarter Moon

July 29: Southern Delta Aquariid meteors peak

David Baumgartner

I am a local fella. Local schools from Fremont, Sacred Heart, Santa Anita, Hollister High, to San Benito Jr. College (Now Gavilan). Then joined the US Air Force where I specialized in Airborne Radar. Married my high school sweetheart JoAnne., shortly after three children arrived; Cindi, Michael, and Lisa. Somehow we ended up with nine Grandchildren.  Went on to San Luis Obispo, Questa, Colleges, and on to Univ. of New Mexico. Came back to Hollister. Opened up Three Pet Stores; Dave's Aquarium Pets & Supplies in SLO, Watsonville, and Hollister. The family spent two and a half years running a ranch up in Oregon. Made our way back to Hollister.  Got my Real Estate License in 1982, opened my own office in 93'. In the mean time raised Swans and revitalized my old hobby of Astronomy.  In 2001 I was named Chamber of Commence Man of the Year. I think I was the only one nominated. I don't care, I'm taking it. In December of 2018 I retired. Not sure if I was forced out or not. None the less, I am retired and I think it was time. Now the last thing I have to do is buy a coffin. I hear COSCO sells them now. But the only drawback is; you have to buy them in lots of six.  I guess I could buy them for the whole family. Not that funny, but thrifty.