Wednesday is National Meteor Watch Day, and it feels like it’s a going to be a great night to leave the shelter of our homes and check out the clear skies.
No, there isn’t a spectacular event to behold, but comfortable temperatures — it’s predicted to be 81 degrees in Seattle and around 63 Wednesday night — sure make a little stargazing sound good.
If you learn to recognize the Summer Triangle now, which is ascending in the east sky, you can watch it all summer as it shifts higher, then finally appears high overhead in the late northern summer and early northern autumn sky, writes Deborah Byrd of EarthSky.
The Summer Triangle isn’t a constellation, explains Byrd. It’s an asterism, or noticeable but unofficial pattern of stars.
The triangle consists of three bright stars from three separate constellations — Deneb in the constellation Cygnus the Swan, Vega in the constellation Lyra the Harp, and Altair in the constellation Aquila the Eagle.
“As night falls in June or July, look east for a sparkling blue-white star. That will be Vega, in Lyra. Reigning at the apex of the celebrated Summer Triangle, Vega is also the brightest of the Summer Triangle’s three stars, which are all bright enough to be seen from many light-polluted cities,” writes Byrd.
Once you master the Summer Triangle, you should always be able to find the great swath of stars that is our galaxy, the Milky Way, passing between Vega and Altair.
“This sky river is, of course, the edgewise view into our own Milky Way galaxy. Although every star that you see with the unaided eye is a member of the Milky Way, at this time of year we can see clearly into the galaxy’s flat disk, where most of the stars congregate,” wrote Byrd. “By August and September, we have a good view toward the galaxy’s center.”