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The American Association of Amateur Astronomers

Learn the Constellations
The First Light Astronomy Kit from David Chandler Company

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The Constellation Scorpius - The Scorpion

Mythology: 
SCORPIUS - The Scorpion 

As the giant hunter, Orion, sets each spring in the west, his mortal enemy, The Scorpion, rises in the eastern sky. Scorpius gained eternal fame when, upon command of the gods, he spring from the earth to surprise Orion, and sent the able hunter to his final resting place. Even the God of Healing, Asclepius, was unable to reverse the fatal effects of The Scorpionís sharp sting. Scorpius is also remembered for his disastrous intervention when the mortal man, Phaeton, attempted to drive the chariot of Apollo, God of the Sun. Here, Scorpius but pricked Apollo's horses with his lethal sting, causing the creatures to bolt and driving the sun-bearing chariot recklessly through the heavens, drying up many rivers and scorching the earth below.

Scorpius is a large and sprawling constellation which lies near the Milky Way, and thus holds many bright open and globular star clusters: a welcome change after hunting down the faint and distant galaxies of the Virgo-Coma galaxy cluster in the Spring. Both faint reflection nebulae and opaque dark nebulae also abound in this region, particularly in the region between Antares and Rho Ophiuci. This is due to the fact that we are looking in the direction close to the center of our galaxy. There are many gems in this area, and it is unfortunate for northern hemisphere observers that the observing season for this constellation is cut short both by the brief summer evenings, and by the constellation's southerly declination.

SCORPIUS

M4 - Photo copyright Ed FlaspoehlerM-4 - Lying about 1.5 degrees due west of Antares, this large globular cluster is both easily found, and a treat to observe. It is large, about 15' in diameter and is rather loosely concentrated, letting us resolve its individual stars rather easily. About 8-10 of its brightest members appear to form a bar right through its center, and gives the impression that the cluster is slightly elongated.

M-6 - This is a fine open cluster just visible to the naked eye. It is sometimes called the Butterfly Cluster, as some observers see the shape of a flying insectoid amongst its stars. The cluster is large, about 25' in diameter, so use low powers to observe it. Over one hundred stars, many bright or relatively bright can be counted in this area.

M6 and M7 - Photo copyright Ed FlaspoehlerM-7 - One of the finest open clusters visible in the northern hemisphere, this object is best seen using binoculars or a finderscope. It is large, about 50' in diameter and contains many bright stars loosely concentrated at the center. Telescopic observers are awarded an added treat; at the western edge, but still within the cluster's boundaries, the faint globular cluster NGC 6453 can be seen. How many times have YOU observed M-7 without seeing this ghostly globular?

M-80 - This is a small, tightly concentrated globular cluster which is difficult to resolve into its constituent stars, and then only around the edges. It is seen in binoculars as a fuzzy star.

NGC 6231 - A fine open cluster, composed of over one hundred stars in a compact 15' area. It actually lies on another spiral arm of our galaxy, closer to the galactic center. According to Burnham's Celestial Handbook, if this cluster was at the same distance from us as the Pleiades, it would appear about the same size as that cluster, but would be about fifty times brighter, with its brightest members shining as bright as Sirius!

Messier Objects in Scorpius

Con

Messier

Type

R.A.

Dec.

Mag.

Size

NGC#

Sco

M4

Globular Cluster

16h 23.6

-26d 32

7.5

26.3'

6121

Sco

M6

Open Cluster

17h 40.1

-32d 13

4.5

15.0'

6405

Sco

M7

Open Cluster

17h 53.9

-34d 49

3.5

80.0'

6475

Sco

M80

Globular Cluster

16h 17.0

-22d 59

8.5

8.9'

6093

Deep Sky Objects in Scorpius

The following objects are on the Astronomical League's Southern Sky Binocular List

Click HERE to download PDF

Object R.A. DEC Mag PA* Type Size Const Urn SA
NGC 6124 16 25.6 -40 40 5.8   Open Cluster 40.0' Sco 407 22
NGC 6231 16 54.0 -41 48 2.6   Open Cluster 14.0' Sco 407 22

NOTE: Urn number indicates page in Uranometria
SA number indicates page in Sky Atlas 2000
PA is position angle for Galaxies

Photos © Copyright Edward P. Flaspoehler, Jr.

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EDITOR: Edward P. Flaspoehler, Jr.

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