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With the start of summer just a few days away, the signature star pattern of the season is already in good view. The Summer Triangle is low in the east and northeast as night falls, and climbs high across the sky later on.
The triangle’s points are Vega, Deneb, and Altair. Vega is the brightest and stands highest in the sky during the evening hours. In fact, for those at the middle latitudes of the United States, Vega passes directly overhead in the wee hours of the morning. Deneb is to Vega’s lower left, with Altair farther to its lower right.
The Summer Triangle is the largest “asterism” in the night sky — a group of stars that forms an easy-to-see pattern, but that’s not a constellation. Perhaps the best-known asterism is the Big Dipper, whose stars form part of the constellation Ursa Major, the great bear. Another is the Pleiades star cluster, which is often mistaken for the Little Dipper.
Of course, you can create your own asterisms whenever you want. Just step out under the starry sky any night of the year, give your eyes some time to adjust to the darkness, then let your imagination do the rest. Just as it does when you look at fleecy clouds floating across the daytime sky, your brain will start to create patterns among the stars — from dragons and castles to cars and Angry Birds.
It’s a great way to spend a lazy summer night — dreaming under the stars.
And we’ll talk about the brightest member of the Summer Triangle, Vega, tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013