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Celestial Hunter and Scorpion, plus see moon near Antares

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Tonight for January 16, 2015

View larger. | Our friend Tom Wildoner captured this photo of the moon and Antares on the morning of January 24, 2014.  He wrote:

View larger. | Our friend Tom Wildoner wrote: “How to feel warm on a cold morning? Check out those summer stars coming back into the morning skies in the Northern Hemisphere! Scorpius and the bright star Antares in the lower left corner are now entering the morning skies in the North. Three photostiched 30-second exposures show the last quarter moon, Scorpius and what may be a shooting star (meteor) in the upper right corner.” Photo from January 24, 2014. Thanks, Tom!

Orion the Hunter fending off Taurus the Bull Image credit: HubbleSOURCE

Orion the Hunter fending off Taurus the Bull. Image via HubbleSOURCE

Top image of constellation Orion via jerm1386 on Flickr

At this time of year, the constellation Orion the Hunter dominates the southeastern sky in early evening, as seen from latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. The featured photo at top shows how Orion appears at early evening at mid-northern latitudes. Notice its short, straight row of three medium-bright stars. These stars represent Orion’s Belt.

On old sky maps, Orion is holding up a shield, fending off the constellation Taurus the Bull, which rose earlier.

In the lore of the sky, Orion is also connected to the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion, which – at this time of year – can be found rising in the southeast shortly before dawn. Tomorrow morning, on Saturday, January 17, the waning crescent moon will be close to Antares, the Scorpion’s brightest star.

By the end of January or in early February, as darkness ebbs into dawn, you might even catch the two stars marking the Scorpion’s stinger over the southwest horizon. These stars – Shaula and Lesath – rise about four minutes earlier each day, so although you’ll likely to miss these tomorrow, you should be able to view the entire Scorpion just before dawn in a week or two.

Let the waning crescent moon be your guide to the planet Saturn and the star Antares before sunrise on Saturday, January 17.

Let the waning crescent moon be your guide to the planet Saturn and the star Antares before sunrise on Saturday, January 17.

So Orion is up in the evening now, and Scorpius is up before dawn. Next summer, when Orion is up before dawn, Scorpius will be out in the evening. Orion and Scorpius never appear in the sky at the same time.

Legend has it that Orion the Hunter was very vain. He boasted that no animal on Earth could kill him. But the Scorpion did sting Orion, and the Hunter died of its poison. Now, according to this ancient myth, the bitter hatred between these two constellations is so great that they can never been seen in the sky simultaneously.

We today have a different interpretation of the fact that Orion and Scorpion are never in the sky together. Scorpius is located in the direction toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Orion is located in the opposite direction. They’re never in the sky at once simply because they’re located in opposite directions in space, as seen from Earth.

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