Tonight – June 24, 2018 – the moon shines near the head of the Scorpion in the constellation Scorpius. These three stars are sometimes called the Crown of the Scorpion. Although tonight’s brilliant waxing gibbous moon will probably wash these stars from view, use the bright star Antares to guide you to the Crown of the Scorpion when the moon drops out the evening sky in July.
Scorpius – which is now found in the south-southeastern sky at nightfall – is the constellation of the Scorpion. Individually, the Crown stars are Graffias, Dschubba, and Pi Scorpii.
It’s rare when star patterns on our sky’s dome have anything to do with real associations of stars in space, but these 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 group, which was first recognized by astronomers in the early part of the 20th century.
About 100 stars are known in the Scorpius-Centaurus group, including Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius – also pictured on today’s chart. 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.
Keep a watch out in the first couple weeks of July as a dark sky illuminates the Crown of the Scorpion.