Seeing the Summer Triangle
by Jeff Baker
Some things are constant regardless of what is going on here on Earth. The Summer skies put on their ancient show no matter what. This evening, around eight p.m. as the sky’s blue was deepening after sunset, I stood in a parking lot near my house and watched bright Jupiter and dimmer Saturn climb the Eastern sky, looking like a set of barbells; or like the ultimate social distancers. (Mars will follow in a few hours!)
Surmounting it all, higher in the sky, becoming visible in the evening’s dimming light; the bright stars of the Summer Triangle. Not an official constellation, the pattern has been called by this name since the 1800s (popularized by H. A. Rey among others!) and has been a noticeable star pattern since the days when Ancient Chinese astronomers took note and wove a story of to separated lovers around it.
The Summer Triangle is made up of three bright stars; Altair, Deneb and Vega. Each part of other constellations in their own right, and a part of this obvious asterism (and Vega fated to be the North Star again in a few Millennia when the Earth’s Axis shifts a little more!) which has become a familiar friend to stargazers from navigators to backyard astronomers across the Northern Hemisphere.
As much a part of Summer nights as the sound of crickets and locusts.