'Summer Triangle' can be seen in the sky this week
'Summer Triangle,' the famous star formation, can be found low in the eastern sky as darkness falls this week.
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But in a twist, the triangle is designated not as a summer star pattern. Instead, it is described under the chapter "Autumn and Winter Stars," since, as the authors point out, the "big triangle" passes overhead on September evenings.Skip to next paragraph
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That is indeed the case, although it is only during the summer months of June and July that the triangle is visible for the entire night, from dusk until dawn.
So just exactly where did the popular "Summer Triangle" name originate?
Hans Augusto "H.A." Rey (1898-1977), is probably best known for he and his wife Margret's creation of the mischievous little monkey, "Curious George."
But in 1952, Rey wrote a constellation book titled, The Stars – A New Way to See Them (Houghton-Mifflin, Boston). In it, Rey made reference to the triangle on Chart 13, where he clearly sketched the star formation out, but under his description of Aquila, the Eagle, he wrote:
"Altair, Vega (in the Lyre), and Deneb (in the Swan) form a huge right triangle, known to all navigators."
Still, though, no "Summer Triangle."
The name finally came two years later, in 1954, Rey published another Houghton-Mifflin book, Find the Constellations, which was designed for young children. It is here, that (finally) we find a reference to the Summer Triangle.
In his Sky-View 3 description, Rey wrote: "Vega, Altair. And Deneb form the famous 'Summer triangle,' with a right angle at Vega."
Rey always noted that the Summer Triangle was a "navigator's landmark." One of the most notable books on celestial navigation is the American Practical Navigator by Nathanial Bowditch.
As it turns out, this publication does indeed make reference to the triangle formed by Vega, Deneb and Altair . . . but not as the Summer Triangle.
Back in 2005, I received an e-mail from a gentleman in Missouri who told me:
"One summer evening in 1958 (as I recall) my father pointed out a satellite passing through the Summer Triangle. When I asked him what that was he explained that it was a group of three navigational stars taught to him when he studied as a naval aviator.
"He showed me a three-ring binder, dating from about 1944, that contained star charts provided by the Navy. I remember seeing several charts on which Vega-Deneb-Altair were connected by lines and marked 'Summer Triangle.'"
"Sir Patrick's Triangle?"