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