24 July 2009

The Summer Triangle

One of the brightest objects in the nighttime sky each summer is called the Summer Triangle. Rather than being a single constellation, the Summer Triangle is an "asterism," a grouping of stars that make an interesting pattern but are not themselves a single constellation. The Summer Triangle is, as advertised, a very distinctive triangle of three very bright stars that form a 30-60 right triangle. The three bright stars are Vega, Deneb and Altair. With three stars at magnitude 0 or 1, the Summer Triangle shines through even light-polluted city skies.

If you have darker skies, the Summer Triangle is a quick guidepost to locating some of the most interesting objects you can see with binoculars or a telescope in the Milky Way. The image to the right is taken from the website of the Great Smoky Mountain Astronomical Society. I like their web images because they present a very easy-to-follow guide to the most interesting objects in the part of the Milky Way that passes through the Summer Triangle, including double stars, nebulae, star clusters and the patterns of the three constellations that include the three bright stars of the Summer Triangle: Lyra, Aquila and Cygnus. For another description of the same objects, try this page from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

Use your binoculars or a telescope - even if you are in a big city - and see how much of these constellations you can identify and how many of the interesting objects you can find lurking in their midst.


Sidewalk Universe said...

Hey Paul, it was just grand to met up with you last week in Reno. I really appreciate your effort to share the sky and astronomy with the folks of S.F.

There is some fun astronomy to be had even in a city setting and I know that you are "lurking" about town taking in the views!

The Urban Astronomer said...

Hi Richard - yes indeed, that was fun to get together. It is clear that Reno and Sparks are all the better because of your sidewalk astronomy efforts there!

I'm conducting a private star party next week, planning another one for the Coyote Point Museum later this month, preparing for the one at the AANC meeting in September and will even be hosting some star parties at a vineyard this Fall. It's becoming a regular gig for me :-)