Get Cornered By The Summer Triangle Tonight

The Summer Triangle comes up in the east-northeast sky around 11:30 p.m. in mid-May. It takes its name from three bright stars – Vega in Lyra the Harp, Deneb in the Cygnus the Swan (a.k.a. Northern Cross) and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. The figure is a signature asterism of the summer sky. View shows the sky facing east around 11:30 p.m. Stellarium

Winter never seems long in coming but summer does. It’s on our doorstep right now. We notice it in later sunsets and lingering twilight. True darkness doesn’t begin for observers in the mid-section of the U.S. until an hour 45 minutes after sundown. For the northern U.S. and southern Canada it stretches from 2 hours 15 minutes to nearly the entire night.

When it comes to walking I love the longer twilights. Instead of black night at the dinner hour, we can watch the stars slowly come out. There’s an ease in that. Mid-May also brings new constellations to the eastern sky.

The Summer Triangle, which has been in hibernation since December, returns to view before midnight. Brightest and the first to rise of the three stars that define its corners is Vega. Look for its hard white sparkle around 10 o’clock in the northeastern sky. Deneb in the Northern Cross and Altair in Aquila the Eagle follow by 11:30 p.m.

The waning gibbous moon will rise along with the Summer Triangle tonight (May 16) but will be out of the way around 11:30-midnight starting tomorrow. The hazy band is the Milky Way, a sidelong view along our galaxy’s midsection. Stellarium

The moon still troubles the sky with glare tonight but will rise late enough beginning tomorrow night to allow many skywatchers their first look this season at the ravishing summertime Milky Way. This silent river of starlight flows across the Northern Cross and over the Eagle’s back. As it rises, you might at first mistakenly think clouds are moving in from the east especially if you live where the sky is very dark.

Naw, that’s just a few tens of billions of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy so distant and so closely spaced (because of their distance) their light blends into phosphorescent haze.

Can you find the three stars that outline the Summer Triangle in this time exposure photo of the Milky Way? Credit: Bob King

The rich star clouds, nebulae and star clusters that comprise our galaxy mirror the approaching season’s nonstop thrum of life. Partake.

2 Responses

  1. Edward M. Boll

    21 this morning, must have been a record. Venus and the Moon quite bright,I am hoping that 209 becomes visible in large binoculars next week, but probably not. Anyway hoping for a great meteor shower out of that one.

    1. astrobob

      Wow Edward, that’s cold! I hope it’s clear too for the shower. Please let us know what you see.

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