It was last summer when I really decided to take up observing the night sky as a hobby. The return of the familiar star patterns brought me great comfort this spring.
Earth’s rotation can be cited for the change in the night sky over the course of an evening. For changes occurring over the course of seasons, we have to cite the revolution of the Earth about the Sun for an explanation. This seasonal change gets more dramatic in the sections of sky further away from Polaris. Watch the Big Dipper over the course of the year. From our latitude you can see it all year long – it will appear to swing around Polaris. However Orion, arguably the most recognizable constellation, only appears on the southern skies in the evening during the winter.
In July, our southern skies are dominated by another constellation nearly as spectacular as Orion – Scorpius (Latin for scorpion). He is currently right above the southern horizon just slightly west of due south after sunset. The best constellations contain bright stars and look like their namesake. Scorpius is no exception. The first star you will probably see is the very bright star Antares which will appear red. Antares often represents the heart of the scorpion. Above Antares are three stars that really appear as the head of a scorpion. His tail, complete with stinger, swings down dangerously close to the horizon and in fact may never rise above it depending on your latitude. We sit down in a bowl, so unless I make a special trip to find an unobstructed southern view, I often only see the head and heart of Scorpius.
Take a moment to enjoy Scorpius in the next few days. This is his prime viewing time as he’s highest in the south just after dark. Over the next few months he’ll transition lower and to the west eventually dipping below the horizon, perhaps seeking cover for the winter.