South by Scorpius

Scorpius is a summertime constellation, seen in the northern hemisphere very much in our southern skies. The higher your latitude, the lower this constellation appears in the sky.

The Mythology

According to myth, Scorpius is chasing Orion, whom he will never catch since Orion, the hunter, sets in the west before this celestial scorpion rises in the east. So, the earthbound observer will never see Orion--a wintertime constellation--and Scorpius at the same time.

Mythology aside, the fact is that Scorpius is on the opposite side of the sun from Orion, which is why we never see them together. We see Scorpius when Earth, in its annual orbit around the sun, is on the Scorpius side of the sun, and Orion when Earth is on Orion's side of the sun.

The sun, of course, blocks out our view of any stars appearing on its far side.

Unlike some other constellations that don't readily appear like anything they're said to represent, Scorpius at least looks somewhat like a giant celestial scorpion. At its neck is the red giant, Antares.

As the video above shows: To find south by Scorpius, notice its position in the sky. Its position, of course, shifts as it travels across the southern sky. (Well, it doesn't really travel, the earth really turns, but you know what I mean.)

"When the Head Stands Up, The Tail Points South"

When the head stands more or less vertical to the horizon, an imaginary line drawn through the tail and down to the horizon, will intersect the horizon near south.

"When the Tail Stands Up, The Head Points South"

When the tail stands more or less vertical to the horizon, an imaginary line drawn through the head and down to the horizon, will intersect the horizon near south.

Of course, you can always find directions by Polaris, the North Star. But what if it's a partly cloudy night, and the northern sky is clouded over while the southern sky is clear? In that case, you have Scorpius as your direction finder.

The Stars Can Provide Back-up Information

Using stars to find direction can, of course, come in handy in an emergency when you have no compass. When you do have a compass, the stars can confirm that your compass is working properly.


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