The scorpion is vanishing in the evening twilight. But tonight offers one last good chance to see it. Antares, the scorpion’s bright “heart,” is close to the Moon. They drop from sight not long after the sky gets good and dark.
Antares is one of the biggest and brightest stars in our region of the galaxy. It’s at least a dozen times the mass of the Sun. And it’s so large that if it took the Sun’s place, it would engulf the four inner planets, including Earth.
Antares is only about two or three percent of the Sun’s age. But because of its great mass, its time is about up. Within the next million years or so, it should explode as a supernova. It’s about 550 light-years from Earth, so it’s no threat to our planet. But it will have an impact on the space around it: The explosion will clear out much of the gas and dust that’s close to Antares, creating a big “bubble” in space.
The scorpion’s heart belongs to a group of stars known as the Scorpius-Centaurus Association. It includes many stars that are similar to Antares. As they explode over the next few million years, they’ll also clear away the surrounding material. The combination of many exploding stars could form a giant bubble similar to the one that encompasses the solar system.
The stars also will “seed” the surrounding space with heavy elements. Those elements could be incorporated into future stars and planets — creation from the deaths of stars.
Script by Damond Benningfield