The Head of the Celestial Scorpion


Scorpius Head & Antares (135mm 5DII) v2The head of Scorpius is laced with colourful nebulas, both bright and dark. 

This is an image from two nights ago, from the dark skies of southeast Arizona. It takes in the head of Scorpius, from yellow Antares at lower left as the heart of the Scorpion, to the blue stars at right that mark his head.

The remarkable feature of this region of sky is its colour. No where else in the sky do we see (or I should say, does the camera see) such a spectrum of colourful nebulas. Dark brown lanes run down from the constellation Ophiuchus at left. They meet up with a yellow patch of nebulosity caused by dust reflecting the yellow-orange light of the giant star Antares.

Hot blue stars light up other dusty patches, while the magenta nebulas are created by gas emitting light, not just reflecting light from nearby stars.

A close-up of the region, shot in Australia last month, appears in my blog post from April 17, Stars Scenes in Scorpius. The image above, shot with a 135mm telephoto lens, takes in an area of sky that typical binoculars would frame.

But the eye sees only a hint of the detail, and none of the colour, hidden in the heart of Scorpius.

– Alan, May 6, 2014 / © 2014 Alan Dyer


4 Replies to “The Head of the Celestial Scorpion”

    1. Hi — while Antares is classed as a red supergiant, much of its light is still emitted in wavelengths shorter than deep red, like orange and yellow, which our eyes and the camera detect well. So they overpower the red. Only very red carbon stars show up on camera as deeply red. Antares isn’t red enough.

  1. Fabulous colours and detail – I have been attempting to capture this area back home with my 135mm and 200mm lenses but am not able to match that Arizona sky quality! It’s been enjoyable following your astronomical travels – keep it up. You needn’t be in any hurry in returning to AB spring weather.

    1. Thanks Mark! Yes, Arizona helps! See you at SSSP this year I hope. I’m back home for a day on Thursday then off again for a weekend in Ottawa. Then back home for the rest of the summer, with trips for photo shooting around Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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