Now that summer is fading away, the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion is only visible at nightfall and very early evening. But the night of September 29, 2014 is a good time to see Scorpius one more time, or at least to glimpse the Scorpion’s Heart, the star Antares. The chart at the top of this post shows the sky scene from the vantage point of North America Monday evening. That’s when you’ll find the waxing crescent moon shining north of the planet Mars and the star Antares.
As soon as darkness falls, look into the southwestern sky at nightfall to glimpse the planet Saturn rather close to the horizon. Saturn sets first, at relatively early evening. The moon, Mars and Antares follow the sun beneath the horizon by around mid-evening.
The Scorpion is one of the few constellations that looks like the creature for which it was named. It’s that curved “tail” of stars looping down toward the southern horizon that does the trick. The star Antares is sometimes called the Heart of the Scorpion. It is a fiery red star, one of the brightest stars in the sky, with a reputation for twinkling fiercely. The fierce twinkling no doubt stems from the fact that, to us in the Northern Hemisphere, Antares arcs across the southern sky and is often seen low in the sky. And when we look low in the sky, we’re looking through a thicker-than-usual mass of Earth’s atmosphere. The atmosphere, of course, is what causes stars to twinkle.
The September 29 waxing crescent moon, as seen from North America, is about 40 percent illuminated by sunshine. In the world’s Eastern Hemisphere – Europe, Africa, Asia, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand – the waxing crescent exhibits a little thinner phase and lies somewhat farther west of where it does in North America.
No matter where you live, the moon – as always – is moving eastward in front of the background stars.
Bottom line: Look for the waxing crescent moon near the planet Mars and star Antares, the Scorpion’s Heart, on the evening of September 29, 2014.