The Devil’s Triangle is a striking sky event which will be present in the night sky for the next month.
It begins at around 1:30 AM. Unless you’re in your teens or twenties, you’ll probably sleep through it. But here’s why it’s worth setting an alarm.
Look south. From then until daybreak, a striking triangle dominates the southern sky. It’s not high up but neither is it too low down to be blocked. The stars on the triangle’s right side are a dramatic orange color—with the topmost one being the brightest by far. The star on the triangle’s left side is essentially creamy white.
You can look for the triangle at your leisure. The main way it will change is that the topmost star will get even more dazzling as April turns to May.
- That orange star at the top is the planet Mars. It is approaching us rapidly. Every second it’s about 10 miles closer. By late next month it will be brighter and nearer to us than any time in the last decade.
- The white star on the lower left is Saturn. It’s arguably the best target for any backyard telescope. The only negative issue it ever has, is that most people can’t locate it. Well, now you can.
- The final member of the triangle is the lower right star. This orange giant is the famous Antares, the brightest star of Scorpius. Its very name means ” the rival of Mars”—and during this month and next you can see why, since their colors match perfectly.
Mars comes close to Earth every two years plus two months, but it happens with the “Red Planet” in various constellations over the years. The last time Mars came near us while in Scorpius, and alongside Antares, was in 1969! That was 47 years ago. So this is a special celestial occurrence. To have Saturn join them is icing on the cake.
As for that “Devil’s Triangle” business, well, we astronomers aren’t superstitious, but many ancient cultures regarded Scorpius as one of the dangerous star patterns; in mythology, it killed Orion, for example, while Mars is the god of war. We still retain that in our language when we speak of a “court martial” or “martial arts.”
To have them meet like this is pretty dramatic. Whether that’s worth setting the alarm and looking toward the south, well, that’s up to you.