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Summer Markers

October 21, 2012

Summertime ended a month ago, but two astronomical markers of the summer season are still hanging in there. One of them will be gone from view pretty soon, though, while the other will linger a while longer.

As twilight begins to drain from the evening sky, look toward the southwest for the sinuous trail of stars that outlines Scorpius, the scorpion. It’s so low in the sky that you need a clear horizon to pick it out. Its brightest star, Antares, shines dull orange, a little below the similarly colored planet Mars.

And to the upper left of Scorpius, look for the other summer marker, Sagittarius, the archer. Its brightest stars form the shape of a teapot, with the steamy Milky Way rising from the spout.

Scorpius will drop from sight within a few days. But Sagittarius will remain in view until around the middle of next month.

All the stars and constellations have their own “seasons” — the time of year when they’re best viewed. For Scorpius and Sagittarius, it’s summer and early fall, when they scoot low across the southern sky for those of us in the United States. Because they’re so far south, they remain in view for a much shorter time than constellations like Leo and Virgo, which climb high overhead.

Yet Scorpius and Sagittarius will both return to view when the weather grows hot and the nights grow short — once again heralding a changing of the seasons in the stars.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012

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