If your kids are showing some interest in astronomy and you’re looking to get them hyped about our night sky, there’s a really cool formation of stars visible right now called the Summer Triangle. And what’s fun about the Summer Triangle is that, unlike a meteor shower, this summer triangle is visible in the sky for a number of months — you just have to know where to look, depending on which month it is.
The Summer Triangle is made up of three stars and is known as an asterism, which, according to NASA, is defined as “a variety of other familiar patterns of stars.” There are several asterisms you can see in the sky — including the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper — and the Summer Triangle is one, too.
What is the “Summer Triangle?”
According to Space.com, the Summer Triangle is made up of three different stars, Altair, Deneb, and Vega.
“Altair is one of the brightest close stars to Earth,” the site explains. “Deneb is the farthest away from Earth among these three,” and “Vega is one of the brightest stars in the night sky.”
When looking at these three up in the sky, they’re aligned and make the shape of a right triangle with Vega at the top, Deneb on the bottom left, and Altair on the bottom right.
How to catch the “Summer Triangle” with the kids
The cool thing about the Summer Triangle is that it’s pretty visible during the summer, and you can even see it through conditions that might be less than ideal, like light-polluted urban skies, NASA notes. And each year, it’s a symbol that summer is finally here.
It’s important to note that the best time to see the triangle depends on what month you’re in since it will rise two hours earlier every month due to the Earth orbiting the sun. Learn the Sky has a helpful video to walk you through how to find the Summer Triangle depending on the time of year.
“The Summer Triangle serves as a stellar calendar, marking the seasons. When the stars of the Summer Triangle light up the eastern twilight dusk in middle to late June, it’s a sure sign of the change of seasons, of spring giving way to summer,” EarthSky.com shares.
To spot the Summer Triangle right now, you’ll see it best before dawn in March, before midnight in May, and when the summer solstice hits in June, right at dusk.
Spotting the stars is relatively simple because all you have to do is look for the three brightest ones. “To gauge the size of the Summer Triangle, hold a one-foot (30cm) ruler at arm’s length from your eye. The ruler (about 1/3 of a meter) pretty much fills the gap between Vega and Altair, the Summer Triangle’s 1st- and 2nd-brightest stars, respectively,” EarthSky.com notes.