Moon and Antares
The three brightest objects in the night sky arc across the southwest early this evening. And one of the brightest stars joins them.
The anchor is the thick crescent Moon, which is low in the southwest about a half-hour after sunset. The planet Venus is far to its lower right, just above the horizon. It looks like a brilliant star, but you need a clear horizon to spot it. And the planet Jupiter is to the upper left of the Moon, almost due south. It's not quite as bright as Venus, but it still far outshines all the true stars in the night sky.
The last member of the quartet is the star Antares, which marks the "heart" of Scorpius, the scorpion. It's the most difficult to see in the early twilight, but as the sky gets darker, it'll stand out.
Antares also stands out because of its color. While most of the stars show little or no color, Antares is a vivid orange. That's the result of its surface temperature, which is thousands of degrees cooler than the Sun.
But Antares is a supergiant star -- one of the biggest and most massive in our part of the galaxy -- so its interior is millions of degrees hotter than the Sun's interior. Like most supergiants, Antares is likely to end its life with a bang -- it'll explode as a supernova. That could happen anytime within the next few million years -- or as early as tonight.
For now, look for Antares a little to the right of the Moon as they descend the southwestern sky this evening.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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