Mars, Antares, and the Moon

The night skies are fascinating to people the world over. Astronomy has its roots in the ancients, who marked the movement of the stars to help them to navigate on both land and sea. They have been the source of myth and legend from the earliest times, with all manner of powers attributed to the various celestial bodies.

With the advent of the telescope, and the ability to study more closely objects as they moved across the night skies, we became more, rather than less fascinated by them. One of those fascinations is the star Antares.

Just as a bit of trivia, the very name Antares is taken from the ancients and was given to the star by virtue of the similarity that can see between it and another equally reddish colored entity, Mars. The ancient name, Antares came from the words- holds against Mars- in ancient Greek.

Antares holds the distinction of being the brightest star that is found in the constellation Scorpius. The color it shows has made it something that people have found curious and interesting all through history.

Antares, as you may know, is a class M supergiant variety of star. It has a radius that is said to be between 700 and 800 times larger than the sun.(the correct number depends on who you ask) It is about 600 light years, give or take, from our solar system. Antares is easily visible with naked eye viewing, but don’t pass up the chance to use a telescope if you have it.

The current night sky see’s Mars high and bright in the constellation Leo with May seeing it slowly moving toward Regulus. The first quarter of the moon will be below Regulus and left of the red planet on the night of the 20th. Mars is beginning to dim however, and Antares is becoming more brilliant, reminiscent of Mars in many ways, but outshining it this time of the year.

There is a bit more than one month’s time until we reach the summer solstice. The moon is at first quarter on the night of the 21st and at full status on the evening of the 28th. It is brilliantly glowing, with less than 2 degrees (a few finger widths) of the equally brilliantly lit super giant star–bright red Antares– which will be coming into even closer proximity to the moon on the night of the 27/28th of May.

The very best time to see Antares in any year is generally around the end of May. The star is opposing the Sun, rising at dusk and setting at dawn. You will be able to view it nearly all night long, while the worst time to make the attempt is in mid to late November when it is not at all viewable, being lost to the sun.

The proximity of Antares to the moon can be viewed with the naked eye. Naked eye viewing is preferable of course to seeing nothing, but if you have the option, use a telescope for far more closeup view of Antares and the moon.

To locate the star Antares, seek out the heart of Scorpius in the eastern sky in the early evening, or if you know how to find Orion, look in the opposite direction from Orion as it sets and locate the three stars that make up the scorpions head and look below. You should be able to find a distinctly red colored star that will be glowing brilliantly beside the full moon, rivaling Mars in its journey through the constellation of Leo.

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