Scorpius, the Scorpion

In this article we look at one of the best winter constellations for binoculars and small telescope viewing.

Start at Antares, a first magnitude red giant some 300 times larger than our sun. In ancient times it was referred to as the rival to Mars due to its colour.

From Antares move 1 degree west to find M4, one of the best globular clusters in our sky. It is easily found in binoculars and even a 112mm telescope will start to resolve the stars.

From M4 move 3 degrees northwest to another globular cluster M80. Not as bright as M4, it appears fuzzy in binoculars but is better in a small telescope.

Go back to Antares and travel approximately 6 degrees east to M19, a globular cluster of medium density but quite bright.

From M19 move approximately 3 degrees south to M62 a large and very bright globular cluster with a reddish centre.

Now go back to Antares and move down the back of the scorpion to the bend in its tail, where you will find NGC 6231, a fairly large open cluster. When viewed through a pair of 10 x 50 binoculars, and with a bit of imagination you can make out the form of a lizard. This cluster has several bluish-white supergiants.

Now move 1.5 degrees north to find NGC 6242, another open cluster and a good binocular target with a bright red-orange star near the southern edge.

From NGC 6242 move 3 degrees northeast to NGC 6281 which is similar in size but with fewer stars. It's still a good binocular target.

Move approx 9 degrees east and slightly north to M7. A good open cluster for viewing with binoculars, this open cluster is visible with the unaided eyes as a fuzzy patch of light.

Now go about 3 degrees northwest to M6 (NGC 6405), also known as the Butterfly Cluster. This is also just visible with the unaided eye, and when viewed with a small telescope under good conditions the star pattern can resemble the wings of a butterfly. It is the southernmost object in Charles Messier's famous catalogue.