With the Moon out of the evening sky for the next few weeks and darkness falling a bit earlier, it’s a good time to tour the night sky.
Once it’s dark, tilt your head back and look waaay up. Or set out a blanket, gravity chair, or chaise. Point your finger directly overhead. That’s the zenith — the point of the sky directly above you. During the night, various stars and constellations will pass through that patch of sky as the Earth’s rotation carries them from east to west. While objects occupy that position, they will always appear at their best. That’s because you are looking through the least amount of intervening air.
In early evening in mid-September every year, the constellations of Lyra (the Harp), Cygnus (the Swan), Hercules, and Draco (the Dragon) occupy that spot. I’ll post a sky chart here. Over the next few weeks, we’ll tour them, pointing out some objects you can look at with binoculars and small telescopes. Up first is Lyra. In Greek mythology, Lyra is the musical instrument created from a turtle shell by Hermes and later used by Orpheus in his ill-fated attempt to rescue his lost love Eurydice from the underworld. We Canadian astronomers call Lyra the “Tim Hortons Constellation” because it contains both a doughnut and a double-double (coffee)