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  • Chris Baker

'Constellation' of the Month - The Summer Triangle

Not actually a constellation as such, but an asterism - a recognisable pattern of stars and in this case spanning three constellations.

Comprising three bright stars - Vega, Deneb, and Altair - this celestial formation is a visual treat for both amateur and seasoned stargazers. In this article, we will explore what the Summer Triangle is, how to locate it with the naked eye, and discover other captivating objects visible around this asterism.

What is the Summer Triangle? The Summer Triangle is not a constellation but an asterism, a recognizable pattern of stars that forms a shape within a larger constellation. In this case, the Summer Triangle lies within the constellations Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquila.

Its three prominent stars, Vega, Deneb, and Altair, represent the brightest stars in their respective constellations.

Locating the Summer Triangle: Finding the Summer Triangle is relatively straightforward, as it can be observed from mid-northern latitudes during the summer months. To locate it, look for the three stars that form a large triangle spanning across the night sky. Vega, the brightest of the three, is found in the constellation Lyra. Deneb, the second brightest, is located in Cygnus, and Altair, the third brightest, resides in Aquila.

Naked-Eye Objects in and around the Summer Triangle: The Summer Triangle offers stargazers the opportunity to explore several fascinating objects visible with the naked eye. Here are a few notable celestial wonders to observe:

  1. Double Star Albireo (β Cygni): Located near the star Deneb, Albireo showcases a striking colour contrast between its two stars, making it a favourite among stargazers.

  2. The Milky Way: Spanning across the Summer Triangle, the glowing band of the Milky Way offers a breath-taking display of countless stars, clusters, and nebulae. Scan the region with your eyes to witness its celestial splendor.

  3. Coathanger Cluster (Brocchi's Cluster, Collinder 399): Found between the stars Altair and Vega, this asterism resembles a coat hanger and consists of a group of stars in the constellation Vulpecula.

  4. The North American Nebula (NGC 7000): Shaped like the continent of North America, this emission nebula lies near Deneb in the constellation Cygnus. On clear nights, its distinctive shape can be traced with the naked eye.

To assist in locating the Summer Triangle and these objects, numerous star maps and smartphone apps are available. Stellarium, SkySafari, and Google Sky Map are popular choices that provide real-time sky mapping, allowing users to identify stars, constellations, and other celestial phenomena.

So, venture out under the stars and let the Summer Triangle be your guide to a magical astronomical experience.

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