In ancient Persia, Antares was one of the four guardians of heaven — it ruled a quarter of the sky. And to the people of ancient New Zealand, it was the ruler of all the stars.
That lofty status was based on the star’s appearance — it’s one of the brightest stars in the night sky, and it shines with a beautiful orange color. But if they’d known more about the star itself, these cultures might have raised Antares to an even loftier perch, because it’s one of the most impressive stars in the galaxy.
Antares is about 700 times wider than the Sun. If it took the Sun’s place, it would engulf Earth and extend beyond the orbit of Mars, the next planet out.
That giant size makes the star’s outer layers quite cool, which is why the star is orange. At that temperature, most of the star’s light is in the infrared. Combined with its visible light, that makes Antares tens of thousands of times brighter than the Sun.
Antares is also much heavier than the Sun. That means the star will end its life by exploding as a supernova — perhaps inspiring future artists to sing the praises of this mighty star.
Antares is in good view on summer nights. Tonight, it’s just to the lower right of the Moon as night falls, and stays close to the Moon as they scoot across the south during the night.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013
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