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June's Star of the Month: Antares

Antares shines as the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius, its ruddy hue and variable brightness well depicting the scorpion's beating heart. During late May and early June, Antares stands opposite of the Sun in the sky. So the star at this time of year rises in the southeast around sunset, crosses the sky during the night and sets in the southwest around sunrise.

At early evening, look for Antares in the southeast sky, close to the horizon. One way to verify this star is by the landmark Summer Triangle. The constellation Cygnus (otherwise known as the Northern Cross), which is embedded within this brilliant trio of stars, points the way to Antares every time. Simply draw a line from the star Deneb through the star Albireo, continuing on and on across the pavement of stars constituting the Milky Way (which you may or may not see, depending on viewing conditions). It's a long jump to Antares -- some four times the distance from Deneb to Albireo -- but once you acquire a feeling for the distance, it's a good guide to the red star.

Once you're practiced, you can even see Antares beneath the horizon with the "mind's eye." In autumn, for instance, Antares no longer stays out all night long but sets at evening time. Even so, Cygnus still points in the direction of Antares, even after it has set and gone.

copyright 2003 by Bruce McClure

June Feature: The Summer Triangle