The Constellations (September, August, July; June, May, April)
Star gazing into the night sky creates a sense of wonder and curiosity. The names of the constellations, their stars, the image they create and their place in the heavens, all play into what makes celestial maps so intriguing and useful in understanding the stars.
September’s ten constellations include Aquila, the eagle, Capricornus, the sea goat, and Cygnus, the swan. Aquila’s brightest star is Altair, while Capricornus’ three largest stars form a triangle at the head of the constellation. Cygnus features an asterism- the Northern Cross and is associated with the Summer Triangle. The Dumbbell Nebula is located in the faint constellation Vulpecula, the Fox.
The most prominent of the five August constellations are Sagittarius, the archer, which features the Omega Nebula, the Lagoon Nebula and the Trifid Nebula. Lyra, a small August constellation, represents the string instrument, lyre. Its brightest star is Vega. Did you know that Vega is the 5th brightest star in the night sky? Lyra also has the famous Ring Nebula, created from a dying star.
Draco, the dragon, Hercules, the strongman, and Scorpius, the scorpion are the most prominent of July’s ten constellations. At the heart of Scorpius is the red star Antares, and the stars Shaula and Lesath make up the tail of the scorpion, sometimes called the “Cat’s Eyes.” Hercules, the fifth largest constellation, has 12 stars with known planets. Draco is home to a small galaxy known as the Draco Dwarf.
Of June’s five constellations, the most well-known are Boötes, the bear driver, Libra, the scales, and Ursa Minor, the little bear. The Boötes constellation is home to Arcturus, the third brightest individual star in the night sky. The popular constellation Libra features librae, the constellation’s brightest star. Ursa Minor has the famous Little Dipper and is home to Polaris, the North Star.
Centaurus, the centaur, and Virgo, the maiden, are two popular groups of the May constellation. The Blue Planetary Nebula and the Boomerang Nebula are found in Centaurus. Virgo is the second-largest constellation in the sky and its brightest star is Spica.
April’s group of eight constellations is home to Hydra, the sea serpent, Leo, the lion, and Ursa Major, the great bear-three popular groups. Of Leo’s 95 visible stars, the brightest star Regulus is situated in the breast of the lion. Ursa Major is the home of a cluster of seven bright stars that form the dipper, while Hydra is the largest of all the constellations.
Each month offers a different view of the heavens!