Behold the Summer Triangle
If you are a stargazer that resides in the Northern hemisphere, then you are probably no stranger to the Summer Triangle. This asterism is at its full viewing-glory during the months of June, July and August so even if you’re not a star-seeking enthusiast this “shapely” trio is relatively easy to find and well worth having a taking a peek at.
The Three Borrowed Stars ~ Vega, Altair and Deneb
The Summer Triangle is actually made up of three “borrowed” stars from the nearby constellations of Lyra (the Harp), Cygnus (the Swan) and Aquila (the Eagle).
The brightest of the three stars is Vega marking the very top of the triangle, which can be found in the Eastern sky. This star is one of the most luminous overall in the night and the brightest in its home constellation of Lyra. It is located approximately 25 light-years away from Earth and shines with a blue-white hue – look for the hue as your first clue to finding this triangular wonder.
The second brightest star of the trio is Altair located in the constellation of Aquila (where it is the most luminous). This star is situated to the lower right of Vega, about a ruler’s length (held at arm’s length) away. It is approximately 17 light-years distant from the Earth and one of the closest stars visible to the unaided eye.
Our last summer trio star is Deneb. It officially belongs to the constellation of Cygnus and takes its place in the Triangle to the lower right of Vega. It is a blue-white super-giant that is estimated to be anywhere between 55,000 and 196,000 times more luminous than the Sun! So even though it is located about 3,300 light-years away, it is bright enough to close the triangle, finishing off this celestial masterpiece.
The Milky Way Runs Through It
Once you have located the Summer Triangle, be sure to take in the spectacular “river” of stars that runs through this seasonal wonder. The Milky Way flows with all its celestial glory between Vega and Altair, leaving Deneb to bask in the midst of the stream as it arcs off across the night sky.
This “milky” delight was one of Galileo’s discoveries and is actually made up of countless distant stars too far away to be individually pinpointed. This barred spiral galaxy is thought to contain around 100 billion planets and could have a diameter that spans up to 180,000 light-years!
Whether you are a seasoned pro at gazing into the night sky or just starting out, be sure to take some time on a warm evening to lie back and see what the heaven’s have to offer. The Summer Triangle and the Milky Way may just be the beginning of a wonderful adventure into the night sky.