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Procyon and Vega
May 15, 2020
Obviously, you don’t need to know constellations to tell what season you’re in, but there are big astronomical markers. In the colder months. The Winter Triangle sweeps across the sky to the south... a nearly perfect equilateral triangle of some of the brightest evening stars--including the brightest star in the sky, Sirius.
But right now, Sirius is extremely low to the southwest after sunset, and Betelgeuse, also part of the Winter Triangle isn’t too far above it. Only Procyon, part of the constellation Canis Minor--the smaller of Orion the Hunter’s two dogs, stays prominent after dark, and by midnight, even it is below the horizon.
Now for the summer tease... To the northeast, the fifth brightest star in the night sky is on its way up. Vega is part of the constellation Lyra, and it’s the first star to rise in the so-called Summer triangle which also consists of the stars Deneb and Altair.
Vega has been dubbed “arguably the next most important star in the sky after the Sun. It was the first star to be photographed, other than the sun. It was the first star to have its spectrum recorded, which we now know can reveal all kinds of information like a star’s temperature, mass, and chemical composition. Vega is also often used to calibrate instruments that measure stellar brightness.
So if we’re lucky enough to have clear skies this weekend, spend some time appreciating the fact that winter is long gone, and summer is right around the corner.