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Moon, Saturn, and Antares

April 8, 2015

Every star is remarkable — a giant ball of hot gas that beams light far across the universe. Yet some are more impressive than others. One of the most impressive shines near the Moon tonight.

Antares is the leading light of Scorpius. It stands to the lower right of the Moon as they rise after midnight. Another bright light, the planet Saturn, is about the same distance to the upper right of the Moon.

Antares ranks in the top one percent of the top one percent of stars in just about every category.

It’s roughly 700 times the diameter of the Sun, for example. If it took the Sun’s place in our own solar system, it would engulf the four innermost planets, including Earth, and come close to the fifth planet, Jupiter.

It’s also extremely bright — about 10,000 times the Sun’s brightness at visible wavelengths. But its surface is relatively cool, so most of its energy is in the infrared. When you add that in, Antares is many times brighter still.

Finally, it’s one of the most massive stars around — roughly 15 to 20 times heavier than the Sun. Such supergiants burn through their nuclear fuel in a hurry, so they live relatively short lives — in the millions of years, compared to billions of years for stars like the Sun.

And when their lives are over, stars like Antares don’t go quietly into that good night. Instead, they blast themselves to bits — a fate that could befall remarkable Antares at just about any time.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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