Gateway to the Stars Aug 3: The Barnyard Portion of the Sky!

Mike Murray
The Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula the Fox, one of the "Barnyard" constellations

The Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula the Fox, one of the “Barnyard” constellations

One of the best guideposts in the summer sky is “The Summer Triangle,” a large triangle of three bright stars. Vega, Deneb and Altair each represent the “alpha” bright star of their own specific constellations but they are also among the brightest stars in the summer skies. In and around the Summer Triangle are many constellations that represent animals of various kinds, which has led to another reference called “The Barnyard” portion of the sky. These can be fun for sky mythology but they can also serve as pointers to many of the summer’s best deep sky objects. Some can be seen with the unaided eye, and many with binoculars.

From the Summer Triangle we’ll do some star hopping to locate other constellations and deep sky wonders like star clusters and nebulae, such as the “Lagoon Nebula” in Sagittarius. The Milky Way stretches right through the Summer Triangle and stretches south to Sagittarius and Scorpius, providing another wonder of the summer sky.

And don’t forget about the famous annual Perseid Meteor Shower! This year the peak occurs on August 12 but the Perseids put on a show over the course of several nights. Starting August 10, watch from late evening into the early morning hours. Yellow colored streaks emanating from the northeast will be telltale signs of the Perseids. The brighter ones (called Fireballs) can leave orange colored vapor trails that stay illuminated for a fraction of a second to as long as 2 seconds!

Come and learn how to view some of the best deep sky objects of the summer. “Gateway” starts at 6:45 pm Saturday, August 3 in the Hansen Dome Theatre.

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