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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Earthsky Tonight, February 7, 2010: Scorpion’s stinger stars an early harbinger of spring

Courtesy of EarthSky
A Clear Voice for Science

Scorpius the Scorpian
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Will you see the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion’s stinger stars below the waning crescent moon in the cold dawn tomorrow? You’ll need a clear, unobstructed view to the southeast to spot the stinger stars – Shaula and Lesath – flickering by the horizon.

If you can’t spot these stars tomorrow, try again later this month. The stars at the end of the Scorpion’s tail are also known as the Cat’s Eyes.

For the Pawnee, who roamed the prairie of Kansas and Nebraska. the sky was a calendar, and the stars foretold the change of seasons. It is believed that the Pawnee called the stars on the Scorpion’s stinger the Swimming Duck stars. These stars are now coming into view around dawn’s first light, or shortly before dawn.

The return of the Swimming Ducks to the morning sky signaled the first stirrings of the great plains from hibernation. Shaula and Lesath’s presence over the horizon was symbolic of waterfowl breaking through the ice.

As we approach the end of winter, Shaula and Lesath will appear higher each morning in the dawn and predawn sky. Their morning appearance tells us that the prairie is about to awaken to the rolling thunders of spring.

Written by Bruce McClure

Other Links:

Sky and Telescope

National Geographic

Space Com

Amazing Space

The York County Astronomical Society

Scope City

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