A star chart for late July to late August.
Bright Vega shines high overhead these warm nights. Bright Arcturus shines in the west. and the Big Dipper hangs in the northwest.
Photo courtesy Fotolia/tams
Check the dates and times at the top-right corner of the page. Take the map out under the night sky within an hour or so of the correct time, and bring along a flashlight to read it by. It helps to rubber-band a piece of red paper over the front of the flashlight; the dim red light won't spoil your night vision.
Outside. you need to know which direction you're facing. (If you're unsure, just note where the Sun sets: that's roughly west.) Hold the map out in front of you. and look at the yellow labels around the edge. Turn the map around so the yellow label for the direction you're facing is right-side up.
The curved edge is the horizon. The stars above it on the map match the stars in front of you. The farther up from the map's edge they appear, the higher they'll be in the sky.
The center of the map is the zenith (straight overhead). So a star halfway from the edge of the map to the center will appear halfway from straight ahead to straight up. Ignore all the parts of the map above horizons you're not facing.
Let's give it a try! Turn the map around and hold it so its northwest horizon (labeled "Facing NW") is right-side up. Nearly halfway from that horizon to the map's center is the Big Dipper, with its curved handle to the upper left and its bowl to the lower right. Go out at the right time, face northwest - and there it is!
A couple of tips: Look for the brightest stars and constellations first; light pollution or moonlight may wash out the fainter ones. And remember that star patterns will look a lot bigger in the sky than they do here on paper.
With this map you can identify celestial sights all over the sky. Go out the next clear night and make some starry friends! (You can customize a night sky map for your location at SkyandTelescope.com ).
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