Did you know there’s a star out there so huge that if it took the Sun’s place in our solar system, it would reach all the way out to somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter? That’s Antares, a red supergiant and one of the most impressive stars visible to the naked eye. This star is the brightest in the Scorpius constellation, often called “the heart of the scorpion”.
To truly grasp how massive Antares is, let’s compare it to some objects we’re more familiar with.
Sun vs Antares: Our Sun is huge, right? Well, Antares is approximately 700 times larger! Imagine 700 Suns lined up next to each other, and you’re starting to get a sense of Antares’ size.
Earth vs Antares: Earth is about 1.3 million times smaller than the Sun. Now remember, Antares is 700 times larger than the Sun. That means Antares is about 910 million times the size of Earth!
Antares vs Jupiter’s Orbit: If we were to place Antares in the center of our solar system, it would stretch out somewhere between Mars and Jupiter’s orbits. That’s a diameter of at least 328 million miles!
Antares is a slow irregular variable star. That means its brightness changes over time. Sometimes it’s the fifteenth-brightest star in the night sky, and other times it dims down. But even when it’s not at its brightest, this star is still a sight to behold. Even though Antares appears as a single star when you look up at the night sky, it’s actually a binary star system. This means there are two stars there, not just one! These two stars are named α Scorpii A and α Scorpii B. The brighter star of the pair is the red supergiant we’ve been talking about, while the fainter star is a hot main sequence star.
Antares is not just a standalone star. It’s part of the Scorpius–Centaurus association, a family of thousands of stars that are all around the same age: about 11 million years old. This star group is the closest of its kind to the Sun, and Antares is its brightest and most evolved member. Located about 550 light-years away from Earth, Antares lights up the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, a nearby interstellar cloud. This makes it not only a giant among stars, but also a beacon in the vastness of space. So, the next time you look up at the night sky and spot Antares, remember: you’re not just looking at a star. You’re looking at a supergiant that outshines and outweighs almost everything else in its neighborhood. It’s a celestial powerhouse, a true giant among stars.
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