If you’re up before dawn on Friday – January 16, 2015 – look for the moon. The brightest object near it is the golden planet Saturn, and the moon and Saturn will be especially close together as seen from North America.. Below the waning crescent moon and Saturn, look for the ruddy star Antares, the brightest in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion, lurking closer to the horizon.
If you have an optical aid – binoculars or a telescope – use them to enhance your view of the early morning scene. Scan the moon’s terminator – the shadow line dividing the lunar day and lunar night – for your best three-dimensional views of the lunar terrain. The terminator on the waning moon shows you where’s it’s sunset on the lunar disk.
Meanwhile, if you have a telescope, enjoy some real eye candy and behold Saturn’s glorious rings.
Sky chart of the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion
The three stars to the west (right) of Antares outline the face or head of the celestial Scorpion. This region of the sky is also known the Crown of the Scorpion. Individually, the Crown stars are Graffias (or Acrab), Dschubba, and Pi Scorpii. See sky chart of Scorpius above to view the Crown stars.
It’s rare when star patterns on our sky’s dome have anything to do with real associations of stars in space, but these three stars are thought to be loosely bound by gravity. All three are located at approximately the same distance, about 500 light-years away. All are thought to be members of the Scorpius-Centaurus Association, which was first recognized by astronomers in the early part of the 20th century.
About 100 stars are known in the Scorpius-Centaurus Association, including Antares.
The Scorpius-Centaurus stars share a common motion through space. They were probably all born from a single vast cloud of gas and dust. In other words, these stars are much like a family – loosely bound – sharing a common history.
Bottom line: Get up before dawn to see the grand vista of the moon, Saturn, Antares and the Crown of the Scorpion adorning the sky in the predawn hours on Friday, January 16, 2015.