A Guide to Viewing Summer Stars

This guide to viewing summer stars will help you navigate the wonders of the universe from your own back yard.
By Alan M. MacRobert
August/September 2003
Add to My MSN

A guide to viewing summer stars.

Content Tools

Related Content

Earth Gauge Tip of the Week — Seeing Stars

Help measure the amount of 'light pollution' in your community and contribute to a growing data set ...

For Your Nighttime Viewing Pleasure

Build a reflecting telescope to enjoy the nighttime celstial show.

Landrace Gardening: Survival of the Fittest

A photo essay showing off the stunning success of landrace gardening on my farm. This success was ac...

Astronomy Almanac for June and July 1999

Everything important that happened in the sky (and a few things on Earth) during June and July of 19...

Find out more about the night sky using this guide to viewing summer stars.

The brilliant white star Vega shines high overhead late these warm nights. Golden yellow Arcturus blazes in the western sky. And if you live under deep darkness, you can see vast star clouds of the Milky Way silently boiling up in the south.

You can learn how to navigate the universe above your back yard using this guide to viewing summer stars. Here's how:

Check the times and dates at the top of the page. Take this map out under the night sky within an hour or so of the right time. Bring a flashlight to read the map. Secure a piece of red paper over the lens of the flashlight with a rubber band; 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 west.) Hold the map in front of you, and look at the yellow labels around the edge. Turn the map around so the label for the direction you're facing is right-side up. The curved edge is the horizon; the stars above it on the map now 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 (overhead), so a star halfway from the edge of the map to the center will appear halfway from straight ahead to directly above you. Ignore 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. Halfway from there to the center is the Big Dipper in Ursa Major. It's hanging with its bowl down. Go out at the right time, face northwest, look about halfway up the sky — and there it is!

Look for the brightest stars and constellations first; light pollution or moonlight may wash out the fainter ones. And remember that star patterns in the sky will look a lot bigger than they do here on paper.

This summer and fall we get a special visitor: the bright planet Mars! During July and August, Mars blazes fiery orange in the constellation Aquarius, low above the east-southeast horizon on the map. In late August, Mars passes unusually close to Earth.

Customize a night sky map for your location at SkyandTelescope.com.

Post a comment below.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.