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Summer Triangle and the smallest constellations

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Tonight for July 22, 2014

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.

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2014

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

July 2014 guide to the five visible planets

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

And, if you’re an early riser, be sure to get an eyeful of the waning crescent moon beneath the star Aldebaran but above the planets Venus and Mercury in the weee morning hours tomorrow, on Wednesday, July 23! Click here to find out when Venus and Mercury rise into your sky.

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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