Altair, the Last of the Summer Stars

September 7th, 2015

Summer is slowly cooling off in the northern hemisphere but many of its brightest stars can still be easily seen in the evening sky. Especially prominent is the Summer Triangle, made up of Vega, Deneb and Altair.

Altair is the brightest star in the constellation of Aquila, the Eagle and as the most southerly member of the Summer Triangle, it’s also the last to rise in northern hemisphere skies.

The twelfth brightest star in the sky and, at just under 17 light years away, one of the closest, it’s been a popular star across the world for centuries. In Asian legends it represents the cow-herder who fell in love with a princess (Vega). The Milky Way represents the river that keeps the star-crossed lovers apart.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Steve Golden

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech/Steve Golden

In reality, the star is nearly twice as massive as the Sun, is eleven times as luminous and rotates once on its axis every nine hours. This rapid rotation causes the star to bulge at its equator so that it loses its spherical shape and morphs into an ellipsoid instead.

If you want to catch Altair and the Summer Triangle, take a look at about 9 p.m. tonight when they’ll be overhead. As the days go by and the seasons change, the stars will rise and set earlier. Wait another month and look again at 9 p.m. – where are the summer stars now that the autumn is upon us?





All Astronomical Events for September 7th 2015

08:54 UT – Mercury is at half phase. (50% illuminated, magnitude 0.3, diameter 7.4”. Virgo, not visible.)



Events in bold involve objects and/or events that are visible with the naked eye.

All times are in Universal Time (UTC). To convert the time to your timezone, click here.

Astronomical events taken from 2015: An Astronomical Year, available in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom.

2015 An Astronomical Year (Kindle Edition) 2016 An Astronomical Year Paperback Cover 2016 The Night Sky Sights

2015: An Astronomical Year

2016: An Astronomical Year 2016: The Night Sky Sights The Astronomical Almanac (2016-2020) The Amateur Astronomer’s Notebook (Pocket Edition)

(Kindle & Paperback)

(Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback) (Kindle & Paperback)


Amazon – US

Amazon – US Amazon – US Amazon – US Amazon – US
Amazon – UK Amazon – UK  Amazon – UK Amazon – UK

Amazon – UK

Details of all available books across the world can be found here or by visiting the author’s page on Amazon. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact me at astronomywriter “at”


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