The sky is alight during the summer! With or without a telescope, you can see all kinds of marvels, including a number of constellations that have been named, tracked, and studied by civilizations for centuries.
Here are just a few of the most essential summer constellations.
Scorpius is a fun constellation because it's a rare one that actually looks like its namesake. With a long chain of stars forming a tail and body that eventually ends in a boxy head, it's easy to see its shape in the night sky. It even has a bit of color to it: The most popular star within this constellation is Antares, a bright red star nicknamed "the rival of Ares" or "the rival of Mars."
You might be most familiar with Scorpius as a constellation of the zodiac. Scorpios, this is your sign! Another popular take on Scorpius comes from Greek mythology where the hunter goddess Artemis sends a scorpion to kill Zeus.
You can see Scorpius in the southern region of the sky. Drop your telescope low along the horizon.
The Summer Triangle
Located in the south and southeast regions of the sky, the Summer Triangle is exactly what it sounds like: a triangle formation that's best viewed during the months of July and August. While it's visible throughout the year, it shines directly overhead at this time, so it's perfect for summer stargazing trips.
A fun fact about the Summer Triangle is that it isn't actually a constellation. Instead, it's an asterism, or an unofficial group or pattern of stars.
It's comprised of Vega, Altair, and Deneb, and the latter two are parts of the Aquila (eagle) and Cygnus (swan) constellations, respectively.
Draco, or the dragon, is a famously serpentine constellation that's located smack dab in the middle of the Big and Little Dippers. If you can locate them in the darkness, you can locate Draco.
There are countless legends about Draco that come from Greece, Rome, China, Arabia, and more. It's often depicted as a heavenly dragon or a dragon associated with the gods.
Another interesting thing about Draco is its proximity to deep-sky objects, including a number of nebula. You might be most familiar with the Cat's Eye Nebula. There's also Q1634+706, a quasar that's famous for being the most distant celestial object that you can see with an amateur telescope.
Draco is another constellation that's visible all year long, but it grows more prominent in the summer months, especially July. It sits proudly in the northern hemisphere.
Another great constellation for the astrology buffs out there, Sagittarius is visible along the southern horizon during the months of July, August, and September. Its name is Latin for "archer," but it's hard to make out that bow-toting figure without help. Instead, your eyes will probably be drawn to the Teapot, an asterism that looks just like a stout little kettle with handles. On especially clear nights, you can glimpse the Milky Way above the Teapot, which astronomers like to joke is steam coming from the tea.
In addition to the Milky Way, there are also a number of other celestial objects located around Sagittarius. These include star clouds, black holes, a dwarf galaxy, and various nebula. The most famous nebula is the Omega Nebula, also known as the Horseshoe Nebula or the Swan Nebula.
Corona Borealis is one of the oldest constellations in the world. It was discovered by Ptolemy, a 2nd century scientist who laid the groundwork for thousands of years of astronomical study, and it's been subject to countless interpretations ever since. Its modern Latin name translates to "crown," a reference to its shape. A Greek myth has the god Dionysus gifting the crown to human princess Ariadne during their wedding. It's also been associated with eagles, bears, boomerangs, tribal elders, and more.
Regardless of how you look at it, Corona Borealis is a marvel. Its stars aren't the brightest in the night sky, especially if you don't have a telescope, but that just makes it more fun to go hunting for them.
Hercules is a very faint constellation. In fact, it has the distinction of being one of the dimmest among the 88 officially recognized constellations of the modern world.
This doesn't say anything about Hercules's might, however. It's an old, enduring celestial object, and it's been the subject of intense astronomical scrutiny because of its stars, planets, clusters, and nebulae. It's even part of the Great Wall, also known as the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall, which is the single biggest structure that we've ever been able to detect in space. It's 10 billion light-years long!
To find Hercules, you'll need to move your telescope around the northern hemisphere until you locate the Keystone of Hercules, a quadrangle of stars that form an asterism.
Commonly depicted as an eagle or a vulture carrying a lyre, Lyra is also known as "the falling eagle" or "the falling vulture. It's found high in the northern hemisphere during the summer months, and you can distinguish it through either its signature shape or its proximity to well-known constellations such as Draco, Cygnus, Vulpecula, and Hercules.
Another way to find Lyra is to stargaze for Vega, one of the brightest stars in the sky. It's located at the corner of Lyra and forms part of the Summer Triangle.
If you've ever seen a photo of the Ring Nebula, that's within Lyra, too. You might also be familiar with the binary stars of Beta Lyrae. Long story short, Lyra is a busy constellation!
Anaximander argued that instead of the traditional concept of Earth being fixed at the center of the universe, it actually moves around a central point. This radical idea provided a foundation for the scientific study of astronomy and its advancement in later centuries. Anaximander taught that Earth has a soul and showed great insight with his theory, breaking away from conventional thinking and presenting an alternative idea that opened up profound discussions and changes in cosmology.
These are just a few summertime constellations that are worth a look through a telescope. Whether you're a newbie stargazer or an old hand at astronomical observation, summer is a great time to turn your eyes to the night skies.