I want to show you some easy ways to learn to recognize some of the major constellations. The stars move throughout the night, appearing in different locations (or out of sight) at different times throughout the night. Near the north pole, the constellations appear to be making a circle around the north pole. Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper are like riders on opposite sides of a Ferris wheel. They spin around Polaris once a day.

The first prerequisite for stargazing is a good starwheel chart. You can download one for free at www.aosny.org/Starwheel.pdf. To provide some order for locating the constellations we can refer to Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter Constellations which simply means these are the constellations you can view in the evening of that season.

We are now in the summer season. The summer evening sky has three bright stars which are called the “summer triangle”. Once you locate this triangle, you can find Cygnus (the swan), Aquilla (the eagle), and Lyra (the lyre). Cygnus contains the bright star Deneb, which is the one corner of the triangle. You can locate Deneb by first finding the Big Dipper and then extending a line through the two stars of the Dipper’s bowl near the handle. The other bright stars in the triangle are Vega (in Lyra) and Altair (in Aquilla).

Although the stars are dim, you may be able to locate Hercules, shaped like a keystone, and located just to the west of the summer triangle.

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