What is Antares?

To head off the questions, since this falls under a speciality of mine, here is a little something about the choice of “Antares” for a middle name.

Tom and Elizabeth are holding in their tradition of giving middle names to their children that are the common names of stars. Their daughter’s middle name is Maia, which is a star in the Pleiades asterism of the constellation Taurus.

Antares is also called Alpha-Scorpii, which is to say it is the brightest star visible with the naked eye in the constellation Scorpius (please don’t leave messages about the boy not being a Scorpio …. this is astronomy, not astrology!)

Antares is normally pretty easy to find, if you know about where to look. It is a massive red star, well over 600 times the size of our own sun (if Antares replaced our sun, the Earth and Mars would both be inside the star; which is to say they would no longer exist). It is also a deep red color (making it a red supergiant). This coloration indicates that the star is relatively cool in external temperature compared to other stars.

I just consulted the star charts, and I’m not sure if this fits into Tom and E.’s thinking, but Antares is in opposition in a little less than three days (that is, the star is opposite the sun in the sky, meaning it is most easily and clearly observed). Just go out around dusk and look to the east …. Scorpius looks kind of like an upside -down or sideways question mark, with three dots instead of one. Check out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorpius

Antares appears near the end of the question mark. Or, using your imagination, if the three dots at the end are the pincers of a scorpion, Antares would be the heart.

Which takes me to why I have always loved the name Antares. While the Greek name here is based on being opposed to the God of War Ares (anti-Ares), the Arab name is far cooler! Kalb al-Akrab: The Scorpion’s Heart! That’s as cool as astronomical names get; a giant red star, right where the heart of a scorpion should be.

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One Response to What is Antares?

  1. […] off, Howard’s Uncle Tom has put up a great post that talks all about Howard’s middle name (Antares). There’s a lot of info in there I hadn’t known. Maybe Howard’s nickname in high […]

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