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The constellation Draco, great Dragon of the north

The constellation Draco the Dragon writes around the North Star, Polaris.  You'll find it between the Big Dipper and Little Dipper.

Tonight for July 10, 2015

If you have a dark sky, try looking for the constellation Draco the Dragon, starting at nightfall. At mid-northern latitudes, Draco is a circumpolar constellation, meaning it is out all night long every night of the year. Make your acquaintance with the celestial Dragon on these summer evenings, at that time of year when the Dragon’s flashing eyes look down upon you from up high in the northern sky.

Draco, with Ursa Minor or the Little Dipper, as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c. 1825.

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The chart at the top of this post – showing Draco – covers a lot more sky than our charts usually do. This serpentine star figure wanders in between the Big and Little Dippers, with its tail found between the bowl of the Big Dipper and the star Polaris.

I always notice the two stars in the Dragon’s head when looking at the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra. If you’re familiar with the Summer Triangle, draw an imaginary line from the star Altair through the star Vega to find the Dragon’s eyes glaring at you from high overhead on July and August evenings. These two stars are Rastaban and Eltanin – lovely, romantic names for the Dragon’s stars.

Watch Draco tonight as it circles around the North Star, Polaris.

Another noteworthy star in Draco is Thuban, which is high in the sky in the evening at this time of year. Thuban is an interesting star because – around 3000 B.C. – Thuban used to be the North Star.

The constellation Draco, by the way, has been associated with a dragon in many cultures. A Babylonian myth links Draco to the dragon god Tiamat, who was subdued by the god of the sun.

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