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.
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