One of the most pressing questions that novice astronomy lovers normally ask is this: how to learn to navigate in the sky?
The answer is simple: gradually! First, you need to learn how to find the brightest stars in the sky and learn their names. Then move from individual stars to groups of stars and learn the locations and names of the brightest and most expressive star designs. After that, you can start working with the star map.
Without knowing the location of the brightest stars in the sky, it is difficult to learn celestial orientation using maps (unless it is a planisphere) – you simply do not have landmarks in the sky to compare with what is shown in the atlas.
Look up and find the Summer Triangle
You should start with the simplest observations. On the next fine evening, go outside, face the south and look up.
You may ask: where, in fact, is the south? South is on the side of the Sun in your area at about noon.
So, after the onset of evening twilight, stand facing the south and tilt your head up. High in the sky, you will see a large triangle formed by three bright stars. This is the Summer Triangle.
The brightest star forms the top-right vertex of the triangle. You will notice it even in a relatively light twilight sky. This is Vega, the brightest star in the northern hemisphere of the celestial sphere after Arcturus.
The star Deneb forms the upper left vertex. She is much dimmer than Vega, but still one of the brightest stars in the night sky. Finally, the third star, Altair, is under these two stars. In terms of brightness, it occupies an intermediate position between Deneb and Vega.
The Summer Triangle is one of the most famous star figures in our sky. As the name implies, it is best to observe it in the summer and autumn partially, when the triangle is high on the southern side of the sky in the evenings.
You probably noticed that I called the Summer Triangle a figure but I never called it a constellation – because it is not a constellation, but an asterism.
The stars that make up the triangle belong to three different constellations. Vega leads the small constellation Lyra, Deneb is part of the very beautiful and expressive constellation Cygnus, and Altair is the main star of the constellation Aquilla.
All three constellations are perfectly visible in the suburban sky on dark August or September nights.
Why is it important to know where the triangle is?
Starting from it, you can study all the summer constellations one by one. Moreover, the Milky Way passes through the Summer Triangle. So, the star Deneb lies in its very midst.
Having found the triangle in the sky, you will automatically find the position of our Galaxy and you will always know where it is located.
Moreover, if you have a telescope or any other observational instrument, you can start looking for the incredible celestial attractions inside and along the edges of the Summer Triangle. With the right equipment, you can find diffuse nebulae, open and globular star clusters, and a variety of stars.
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• Byrd, D. (2020, July 14). Find the Summer Triangle: Astronomy Essentials. EarthSky.
• McClure, B. (2021, June 4). Come to know the Summer Triangle: Tonight. EarthSky.
• NASA. (n.d.). Spot the Stars of the Summer Triangle.
• Rao, J. (2019, September 10). Why Do We Call It the ‘Summer’ Triangle? Space.com.