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How to Find Your Way Around the Summer Night Sky

For those who live in the northern hemisphere, the summer nights are simply dazzling, filled with hundreds, indeed thousands of stars. While it may seem daunting at first, you can learn the major constellations of summer and find your way around the night sky by using the steps below as a guide.

Steps

  1. The chart below represents a typical summer night (in this case July 14th at 9pm local/10pm local DST) at roughly 35° north (close to the latitude for the cities of Memphis, Tennessee (USA), Tokyo (Japan) and Tehran (Iran)).Looking straight up, facing south, you'll notice three bright stars to your left (the east). These stars are Vega, Altair and Deneb. They form a large asterism known as the Summer Triangle.
  2. Now that we've found the Summer Triangle, we can identify the three constellations associated with those stars:Lyra the Harp, Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan.
  3. To our right (the west), and a little further north, you will find the Big Dipper (also known as the Plough), which is actually another asterism (more on that later).Follow the curve of the handle south towards a very bright star; "arc to Arcturus", the brilliant orange star that marks the constellation Boötes the Herdsman.
  4. Let's locate another bright constellation.This one is perhaps the best looking summer constellation, Scorpius the Scorpion, which lies due south. The brightest star in Scorpius is Antares, a red giant.
  5. Now that we've located some of the brighter constellations, let's use them to locate some of the fainter constellations.Draw an invisible line from Deneb through Vega and a little further west. This will lead you to the constellation Hercules the Hero.
  6. Let's move west and back to the bright star Arcturus.Since we've already followed the "arc to Arcturus", we can now "spike to Spica", which is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden.
  7. Moving back to the south and Scorpius, we can locate the "Teapot" asterism, which is made up of the brightest members of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer (an interesting fact; the area just above the "spout" and between Scorpius marks the direction of the center of the Milky Way, our galactic home).
  8. Moving back north now.Earlier, we referred to the Big Dipper (the Plough) as an asterism. It is actually part of a large constellation known as Ursa Major, the Big Bear. If you follow an invisible line from the two stars opposite the handle (the "pointers"), you'll find that they point almost directly towards Polaris, the North Star, which is at the end of the handle of the Little Dipper, another asterism. This is actually Ursa Minor, the Little Bear.
  9. If you continue to follow our line through Polaris, you will come to a constellation that lies almost directly opposite the sky of Ursa Major.This is Cassiopeia the Queen, one of the major autumn constellations.
  10. Finally, we'll locate one of the smallest of the 88 official constellations, just to the east of the Summer Triangle.This is Delphinus the Dolphin (which truly looks like its namesake).

Community Q&A

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  • Question
    What are the names of the 3 Stars in the Triangle that is opposite to the Summer Triangle?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    If you mean the Winter Triangle (Great Southern Triangle). The three stars are Betelgeuse in Orion, Procyon in Canis Minor, and Sirius in Canis Major.
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Date: 06.12.2018, 14:59 / Views: 32373