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With summer behind us, a couple of starry symbols of the season are facing different futures. One is getting ready to disappear in the evening twilight, while the other will hang on until winter.
Scorpius, the scorpion, is quite low in the south and southwest as night falls. Its brightest star, Antares, is still easy to see. But the scorpion’s body, which stretches to the lower left of Antares, and its head, to the right of Antares, are harder to pick out.
Like all the other stars, those of Scorpius rise and set four minutes earlier each day. So over the next few weeks, Scorpius will drop lower in the sky night by night. That will make it harder and harder to see. That’s especially true from locations that are farther north, where parts of the scorpion are already dipping below the horizon by the time the sky gets dark.
On the other hand, the Summer Triangle is in magnificent view at that hour. Its brightest point, the star Vega, is almost directly overhead. It’s one of the brightest stars in the northern sky, so it’s easy to pick out.
Deneb, the tail of the swan, takes its place atop the sky an hour or so later. And Altair, the third point of the triangle, moves high across the south.
The Summer Triangle sets earlier each night as well. But as we head through autumn and into winter, the Sun will also be setting later. So that extends the viewing time for the triangle into winter — making it a star pattern for all seasons.
Script by Damond Benningfield