An Evening Star Chart

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Photo courtesy Fotolia/tams
Bright Vega shines high overhead these warm nights. Bright Arcturus shines in the west. and the Big Dipper hangs in the northwest.
Bright Vega shines high overhead these warm nights. Bright
Arcturus shines in the west. and the Big Dipper hangs in
the northwest. These are just a few of the celestial sights
you can find on any clear evening during the last half of
July, and all of August. using this sky map. Here’s how.

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 ).