Sunday October 25 2020




Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

Summer triangle time

Posted on August 20 2013 at 12:59:59 0 comments

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

September; oh, no, it’s the start of Autumn with the Autumnal Equinox on the 22nd and sunset, which is at five to eight at the start of the month, is as early as quarter to seven at the end.

Still, it means more time for stargazing!

Sadly, it is the last we see of Venus as it starts to vanish in the evening twilight. Look out for it as soon as the sky darkens on the evening of the 9th. It will be very low in the south west with a beautiful crescent Moon to the left.

Keep observing as it gets darker and you should soon spot Saturn above the Moon making a wonderful celestial triangle in the glow of the sunset.

Once you have found Saturn, watch for it each evening as Venus moves closer, till around the 19th when they are at their nearest with Saturn above Venus, just about visible from about quarter to eight.

Be quick though, because you only have half an hour or so to catch them.

The best time to see planets will be in the mornings as Jupiter and Mars are on show all month, This will, however, entail getting up early in the morning as it will be too light by six o’clock.

Assuming you have managed to rise early (or perhaps you’re still up having attended a lock-in at a nice pub somewhere?), look eastwards at around four thirty and you will easily find the giant constellation of Orion with the bright red star, Betelgeuse, at its head.

To the left, a little more than halfway to the twins of Gemini, is Jupiter, instantly recognisable by its brightness. Below Jupiter is the bright star of Canis Minor, Procyon.

Mars is to the left, looking distinctly red and making a flattened diamond shape with Jupiter, Betelgeuse and Procyon. Mars drifts slowly downwards during the month but is especially worth looking out for on the 30th when a thin crescent Moon is close by.

Meanwhile, for normal people, this is the time of year when we start to see the “Summer Triangle”.  This is the triangle of stars formed by Vega, Deneb and Altair.

Vega is very easy to find, being high overhead and the brightest star in the sky at the moment. If you are facing south (and haven’t actually fallen over backwards yet), Deneb is visible to the left and easily identifiable as it sits at the end of the cross of stars that make up Cygnus the swan, flying along the Milky Way.

Further down, about halfway to the horizon, is the third point of the triangle, Altair, which marks the tail of another celestial bird, Aquila, the eagle, in the south.

These three stars form a handy marker in the sky, useful for finding your way around – but if it’s only just becoming obvious, why the Summer Triangle?

Well, it has been there for months but only now do we see it at a reasonable time in the evening.

Astronomers are nocturnal, you see, a fact brought home to me when I attended a gathering of them to witness the 2004 Transit of Venus.

It was quite scary to watch the fierce summer Sun rise that June morning, shining down on shockingly white-skinned boffins, blinking in the unaccustomed light of day.

I bet there were a few Red Dwarfs around that evening!

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