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July 4, 2015

The Fourth of July is a time for beautiful lights in the evening sky. If you can’t make it to a big fireworks display, though, Mother Nature offers some lights of her own — a sprinkling of bright stars and planets across the night.

A couple of those lights are in good view well before the color of twilight drains from the western sky. The planets Venus and Jupiter stand side by side. They’re the brightest objects in the night sky after the Moon, so you just can’t miss them. Venus is the brighter of the two. And Regulus, the heart of Leo, stands not far to their upper left.

By the time the sky gets good and dark, the golden planet Saturn stands well up in the south. And Antares, the heart of the scorpion, is down to its lower left.

And the dazzling Summer Triangle is high in the eastern sky. Its brightest point is also its highest — the star Vega, in Lyra, the harp. Deneb is to its lower left, at the tail of Cygnus the swan. And Altair, in Aquila, the eagle, is farther to the lower right of Vega.

And perhaps the most spectacular nightlight of all arcs through the Summer Triangle: the glowing band of the Milky Way. It’s not nearly as bright as all those fireworks displays, so you need to be far away from city lights to see it. Yet in its own way, it’s much more impressive. It’s the combined light of millions of stars outlining the disk of our home galaxy — a special kind of fireworks display in the summer sky.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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