Brightest Stars

Rastaban and Eltanin, the Dragon’s Eyes, on June evenings

Star chart: constellations Draco and Lyra, with stars Rastaban and Eltanin and bright star Vega all labeled.
Rastaban and Eltanin, found in the head of Draco the Dragon, represent the Dragon’s Eyes.

Find the Dragon’s Eyes

Tonight, find the Dragon’s Eyes. For years, I’ve glanced up to the north on June evenings and spied the two stars marked on today’s chart, Rastaban and Eltanin in the constellation Draco. They’re noticeable because they’re relatively bright and near each other. There’s always that split second when I ask myself with some excitement what two stars are those? It’s then that my eyes drift to blue-white Vega nearby … and I know, by Vega’s nearness, that they are the stars Rastaban and Eltanin.

These two stars represent the fiery eyes of the constellation Draco the Dragon. Moreover, these stars nearly mark the radiant point for the annual October Draconid meteor shower.

Because the stars stay fixed relative to each other, Vega is always near these stars. Vega, by the way, lodges at the apex of the Summer Triangle, a famous pattern consisting of three bright stars in three separate constellations, also prominent at this time of the year.

Rastaban and Eltanin from around the globe

From tropical and subtropical latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, the stars Rastaban and Eltanin shine quite low in the northern sky (below Vega). In either hemisphere, at all time zones, the Dragon’s eyes climb highest up in the sky around midnight (1 a.m. daylight saving time) in mid-June, 11 p.m. (midnight daylight saving time) in early July, and 9 p.m. (10 p.m. daylight saving time) in early August. But from temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere (southern Australia and New Zealand), the Dragon’s eyes never climb above your horizon. However, you can catch the star Vega way low in your northern sky.

People at mid-northern latitudes get to view the Dragon’s eyes all night long!

About constellations

Speaking of Rastaban and Eltanin, one of you asked:

What are constellations?

The answer is that they’re patterns of stars on the sky’s dome. The Greeks and Romans, for example, named them for their gods and goddesses, and also for many sorts of animals. In the 20th century, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) formalized the names and boundaries of the constellations. Now every star in the sky belongs to one or another constellation.

The stars within constellations aren’t connected, except in the mind’s eye of stargazers. The stars in general lie at vastly different distances from Earth. It’s by finding juxtaposed patterns on the sky’s dome that you’ll come to know the constellations, much as I identify Rastaban and Eltanin at this time of the year by looking for the star Vega.

Read more: A Dragon and a former pole star

Antique colored etching of a snake-like serpent with many coils, with stars along it.
The constellation Draco from Urania’s Mirror by Sidney Hall. Image via Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Bottom line: Look in the northeast on these June evenings, near the star Vega. You’ll see Rastaban and Eltanin, two stars that are bright and close together.

EarthSky astronomy kits are perfect for beginners. Order today from the EarthSky store

Enjoying EarthSky so far? Sign up for our free daily newsletter today!

June 14, 2024
Brightest Stars

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

Deborah Byrd

View All