Judy Isacoff: Look for summer's Scorpius


The splendid star pattern of Scorpius the Scorpion is painted above the southern horizon at nightfall. A summer constellation, it is now well positioned for most northern stargazers, not only those awake late into the night and before dawn at other times of year. Scorpius' long body, from head to heart to recurved tail replete with stingers, stands tall upon the horizon before it gradually lays down and disappears in the southwest after midnight.

Antares, the Scorpion's brightest star, shines as one of a string of bright celestial lights stretched from south to southwest from shortly after 9 p.m. until shortly before midnight. To the right of Antares, find Saturn, then Mars, then Spica. Above Mars, notice Arcturus, the brightest star in the summer sky. Discover a triangle formed by Arcturus, Mars and Saturn.

A dark sky location close to 10 p.m. will be ideal for viewing Scorpius: Twilight will have deepened to full darkness, making it possible for the figure's dimmer stars to appear. Be sure to avoid artificial lights and give your eyes about 15 minutes to adjust to the dark. Look for two stars side-by-side at the tip of the Scorpion's tail. Known as Cat's Eyes, the more luminous of the two is Shaula -- an Arabic name for "the scorpion's stinger." Lesath is the dimmer star to the right.

The Delta Aquarid meteor shower, officially active from July 12 through Aug. 23, is usually given little press because the Perseids, which peak on the night of Aug. 12-13, is normally one of the best meteor showers of the year. This year, however, the light of the nearly full moon will wash out much of the Perseids. In the absence of moonlight this week, look up for the Delta Aquarids on Tuesday and Wednesday at around 3 a.m. Be sure to choose a dark sky location. Early Perseids may also surprise us.

To contact Judy Isacoff go to: www.naturesturn.org


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