|The Cygnus constellation|
For those of us who live in Canada’s urban centres, gazing into the night sky is more likely to bring us face to face with flickering street lamps and office lighting than a galaxy far, far away. But make no mistake, the stars are still out there, they just can’t compete with a city on high voltage. Once you move away from the bright lights of the big city, though, many stars and constellations become visible to the naked eye — but you may not know what you’re looking at. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer night sky is dominated by the Summer Triangle, an asterism* of three bright stars:
- Vega– The brightest of the three stars, Vega is a slightly blue-white star in the constellation Lyra (the Lyre) and is found directly overhead during the months of July, August and September. It is also the fifth-brightest star in the night sky. The name Vega means “swooping eagle” in Arabic.
- Deneb– The brightest star in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), Deneb is the nineteenth-brightest star in the night sky. The name Deneb is Arabic for “tail of the hen.”
- Altair – The brightest star in the constellation Aquila (the Eagle), Altair is the twelfth-brightest star in the night sky. The name Altair is Arabic for “flying eagle.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Canada’s night sky but are looking for a tour guide to the stars, take part in one of the Canada’s Parks Day events taking place across the country. In honour of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, all Parks Day events will focus on astronomy.
*Asterism: a pattern of stars, but not officially a constellation. See more glossary terms »