Eyes to the Sky: Summer Triangle aloft halfway to winter


Star light, star bright

first star I see tonight

I wish I may, I wish I might

have the wish I wish tonight.

-- Folk Rhyme

To pursue the little triumphs of discovering faraway stars in an almost daylight-blue sky is not only child’s play, it engenders timeless delight that rejuvenates the curious.

Earth’s star, the sun, drops below the west-southwest horizon at 4:40 today and evening fast approaches. For those with a clear view to the southwest, planet Venus will be the first star-like object to appear. By 5:10, a glance up to the top of the sky, slightly west, will reveal Vega, the third brightest true star visible in the northern hemisphere. It is among the few that can be seen in twilight.

Arcturus is the second brightest distant sun visible in our locale but because it is close to the northwest horizon where the sunset light may overpower it, it may appear after Vega -- and will set at nightfall. Vega, from the Arabic for "descending one" or "falling vulture," is up until after midnight.

The "falling vulture" is one of the luminaries of the Summer Triangle, a star pattern composed of one star from each of three attractive constellations. The crescent moon is far below blue-white Vega this evening. Between the moon and Vega, as twilight deepens, yellow-white Altair appears, followed by white Deneb. The great triangle is prominent in the heavens well before the dimmer stars that compose their associated constellations appear.

Deneb, Arabic for "tail," marks the tail of Cygnus the Swan; the star is seen also as the top of the Northern Cross. Altair, "flyer," is at the head of Aquila the Eagle. Vega, a bird in name only in our cosmology, is a part Lyra the Lyre, a small harp.

The Summer Triangle clears the eastern horizon at sunset as summer begins and descends into the west-northwest skyline after the Winter Solstice.

To contact Judy Isacoff go to: www.naturesturn.org


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