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Summer Triangle and smallest constellations

The Summer Triangle consists of three bright stars – Vega, Deneb and Altair – in three separate constellations. If you can find the Summer Triangle, you can use it to locate three of the sky’s smallest constellations: Vulpecula the Fox, Delphinus the Dolphin and Sagitta the Arrow.

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All three would be impossible to see from the city. And personally – true confession ahead here – I’ve never managed to identify Vulpecula in my 30+ years of stargazing. It’s just so faint and so small!

If you’re up for a binocular challenge, try finding the Coathanger asterism in Vulpecula.

Sky chart of the Summer Triangle and small constellations

Once you're familiar with the Summer Triangle, star-hop from there to the nearby small constellations. Click here for a larger chart

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On the other hand, the little constellations Delphinus and Sagitta are very distinctive. They’re easy to see in a dark country sky, because both actually look somewhat like the objects/creatures for which they’re named. Delphinus is supposed to be the Dolphin that carried a Greek poet – Arion – safely away from his enemies. Sagitta is sometimes considered to be an arrow shot from the bow of Hercules.

Summer Triangle: Vega, Deneb, Altair

Our Summer Triangle series includes:

Part 1: Vega and its constellation Lyra

Part 2: Deneb and its constellation Cygnus

Part 3: Altair and its constellation Aquila

Deborah Byrd