The Stars of Summer
Three of the sky’s brightest illuminate this seasonal show
Darkness gives way to light early Friday morning as the sun crests the northeast horizon at 5:46; later that day, it sets at 8:20. By Wednesday, old Sol has added five minutes to its transit, rising at 5:44 and setting at 8:23.
Growing days equal shrinking nights, but even so, this is one of the best times for gazing at the night sky. Evening weather is comfortable with few of summer’s biting pests. And low humidity with fewer airborne particulates from home fireplaces and heating systems add to the sparkle of the stars and planets.
Kicking off this weekend’s summer celebrations, the three brilliant stars of the Summer Triangle pivot into view. With sunset, blue-white Vega appears low in the northeast. This zero-magnitude star in the constellation Lyra is the fifth brightest. For our early ancestors a dozen millennia ago, Vega was the North Star, not Polaris, and in another 10,000 years it will be again. Imagine earth as a wobbling top with the upward-pointing handle marking due north. As the top spins, the handle rotates in a wide loop, changing the point of celestial north over time.
Deneb, 19th brightest star, rises in the northeast around 9pm. Meaning tail in Arabic, Deneb marks the tail of Cygnus the swan, flying southward through the Milky Way. The same formation of stars makes up the Northern Cross.
Altair, the last star of the Summer Triangle, rises around 10:30. The name of this 13th brightest star translates loosely from Arabic into the flying eagle. Like outstretched wings, it is flanked to either side, forming a near-straight line, by two less bright yellow stars.
Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2007 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.