The constellations in tonight’s sky host many familiar star patterns. For northern observers, summer is the best time of the year to see the constellations near the Summer Triangle, a bright, large asterism formed by the brightest stars in Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquila. It is also an excellent time to catch the Teapot of Sagittarius on the southern horizon in the evening.
For observers in the southern hemisphere, five zodiac constellations – Aquarius, Capricornus, Sagittarius, Scorpius, and Libra – are high above the horizon in the evening. The Southern Birds – Phoenix, Tucana, Grus, and Pavo – also appear high in the sky around 10 pm.
The night sky tonight looks different depending on the location. The constellation maps below show the sky around 10 pm in the mid-northern, equatorial, and mid-southern latitudes.
For observers in mid-northern latitudes, the Summer Triangle dominates the evening sky. Formed by three first-magnitude stars – Vega, Altair, and Deneb, the brightest stars in the constellations Lyra, Aquila, and Cygnus – the asterism can easily be seen even from light-polluted areas.
The two bird constellations – the Swan (Cygnus) and the Eagle (Aquila) – are easily recognizable because they fly opposite each other in the sky. Deneb sits at the top of the Northern Cross and marks the Swan’s tail, and Altair can be identified as the bright star flanked by two other relatively bright stars, Tarazed and Alshain. Vega appears next to a small parallelogram that outlines the celestial lyre.
The Northern Cross is one of the most recognizable features of the northern summer sky. Formed by the five brightest stars in Cygnus, the asterism can be used to find several bright nebulae that lie in this area. These include the North America Nebula (NGC 7000), the Pelican Nebula (IC 5070), the Veil Nebula (Caldwell 33 and 34), the Sadr Region (IC 1318), and the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888).
A line extended through the wings of the Swan leads to the head of Draco. The bright stars Eltanin and Rastaban mark the Dragon’s eyes. Hercules, one of the largest constellations in the sky, lies to the southeast.
The Summer Triangle can be used to identify several of the smaller constellations that lie within its borders. The most distinctive of these are Sagitta (the Arrow) and Delphinus (the Dolphin), which look like the object and animal they represent.
The most prominent constellations rising in the east around 10 pm are Pegasus and Pisces.
The Winged Horse is recognizable for the Square of Pegasus, a large asterism formed by three Pegasus stars – Algenib, Scheat, and Markab – with Alpheratz, the luminary of the neighbouring Andromeda. The supergiant Enif, the brightest star in Pegasus, can be used to find Equuleus (the Foal).
Pisces rises right after Pegasus. The fourth largest zodiac constellation is recognizable for the Circlet of Pisces, a circle of stars outlining the head of the western fish. Its zodiac neighbour Aquarius rises in the southeast, and the brighter Andromeda in the northeast.
Aquarius is identified by an asterism known as the Water Jar, located below the imaginary line connecting Enif and the Great Square. Andromeda is recognizable for the chain of three bright stars – Alpheratz, Mirach, and Almach – located between Pegasus and Perseus.
The northern circumpolar constellations Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, and Camelopardalis occupy most of the northern sky in the evening. Ursa Major appears in the northwest and Cassiopeia and Perseus in the northeast.
The bear constellations are recognizable for the Big and Little Dippers. The fainter Little Dipper appears upside down around 10 pm, with Polaris (the North Star) pointing toward the horizon. The faint Camelopardalis (the Giraffe) appears between Polaris and Perseus.
The Big Dipper, formed by seven bright stars in Ursa Major, dominates the northwestern sky. Merak and Dubhe, the outer stars of the Dipper’s bowl, point toward Polaris. The tail of Draco is found between the Dippers and the rest of its body winds around the Little Dipper’s bowl in the direction of Cygnus.
Cassiopeia rises in the northeastern sky in the evening. Its brightest stars form Cassiopeia’s W, a prominent northern asterism that can be used to find the fainter Cepheus. A line extended from Schedar through Caph, the rightmost stars of the W, leads to Alderamin, the brightest star in Cepheus. Alderamin appears at the base of an asterism sometimes called the House of Cepheus. The stick house pattern is what makes the constellation recognizable.
The most prominent constellation setting in the west this time of year is Boötes. The celestial Herdsman is home to Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. The red giant appears at the base of the Kite, a relatively bright asterism found between the handle of the Big Dipper and the semi-circle of Corona Borealis. Arcturus is easily identified as the brightest star that appears along the imaginary curved line extended from the Big Dipper’s handle.
Corona Borealis can be used to find the head of the Serpent, which appears between it and the claws of the Scorpion.
Two smaller and fainter constellations appear between the Big Dipper’s handle and the constellation Virgo: Canes Venatici and Coma Berenices. The two brightest stars in Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs) – Cor Caroli and Chara – are parallel to Alkaid and Mizar, the stars at the end of the Dipper’s handle.
Coma Berenices is found between Arcturus and Denebola, the star marking the Lion’s tail. The constellation’s brightest star, Beta Comae Berenices, shines at magnitude 4.26 and is a challenging target from heavily light-polluted areas. However, Coma Berenices contains the bright, large Coma Star Cluster (Melotte 111), an open cluster visible to the unaided eye. The cluster stretches across an area of 7.5 degrees and has an apparent magnitude of 1.8.
Sagittarius dominates the southern sky in the evening. The Teapot, formed by the Archer’s brightest stars, lies east of the Scorpion. The bright Antares and the Scorpion’s claws make an appearance above the horizon, but the tail has partly set around 10 pm.
The fainter zodiac constellations Capricornus and Libra appear in the southeast and southwest, respectively. Scutum (the Shield), the home of the Wild Duck Cluster (Messier 11), can be made out between the tail of Aquila and the Teapot.
Ophiuchus, the 11th largest constellation in the sky, appears high above the southwestern horizon, taking up most of the space between Vega and Antares. The Serpent’s head lies just below Corona Borealis, while its tail is visible between the constellation figures of Ophiuchus and Aquila on a clear night.
Observers in equatorial latitudes see many of the same constellations as those in mid-northern locations, but these constellations do not appear in the same place. Additionally, observers near the equator can see many constellations in the southern sky that are invisible to northern observers.
The constellations high overhead this time of the year are Aquila (the Eagle), Capricornus (the Sea Goat), and Sagittarius (the Archer). The small, faint Scutum (the Shield) is found between the tail of Aquila and the Teapot in Sagittarius. The tail of Serpens appears in the region between the Eagle’s wing and Antares.
Aquila is recognizable for its bird-like shape. Altair, the constellation’s brightest star, marks the Eagle’s head or neck. It forms an asterism known as the Shaft of Aquila (or Family of Aquila) with the two fainter stars flanking it, Alshain and Tarazed. The Shaft of Aquila can be used to find the faint, V-shaped constellation figure of Capricornus, which appears high in the southeast in the evening.
Draco and Cepheus appear above the northern horizon in the evening. The head of the Dragon is found by extending an imaginary line through the crossbeam of the Northern Cross in Cygnus. The line leads to Eltanin and Rastaban, the stars that mark the eyes of Draco. Eltanin and Rastaban are part of an asterism known as the Lozenge, which shares three stars with the Head of Draco (Eltanin, Rastaban, and Grumium) and includes Iota Herculis in the neighbouring Hercules.
Cepheus is found using the W of Cassiopeia, which sits low above the northern horizon in the evening. Alderamin, the brightest star in Cepheus, lies on the imaginary line extended from Schedar through Caph, the rightmost stars of the W asterism. Schedar and Caph are also commonly used to find the bright open cluster Messier 52 and the emission nebula NGC 7635 (the Bubble Nebula).
The constellations of the Summer Triangle – Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra – appear higher above the horizon this time of year. Their bright stars can be used to find the fainter and smaller Sagitta (the Arrow), Delphinus (the Dolphin), Vulpecula (the Fox), and Equuleus (the Little Horse).
Hercules, the fifth largest constellation in the sky, appears in the northwest. It is recognizable for the Keystone asterism, which outlines the mythical hero’s torso. The Keystone appears between Vega and the Northern Crown (Corona Borealis). It can be used to find the Hercules Globular Cluster (Messier 13) and the globular cluster Messier 92.
The constellations rising in the east around 10 pm are Pisces and Cetus. Pisces can be identified using the Circlet of Pisces, an asterism located near the bigger and brighter Square of Pegasus. The Circlet outlines the head of the western fish. The fainter head of the eastern fish appears near Mirach, the middle of the three bright stars in Andromeda.
Cetus is the fourth largest constellation in the sky, after Hydra, Virgo, and Ursa Major. Representing the mythical Sea Monster or Whale from the myth of Andromeda, it lies predominantly in the southern sky. With only two stars brighter than magnitude 3.00 – Diphda and Menkar – the constellation does not particularly stand out in the sky.
Aquarius, recognizable for the Water Jar asterism, appears higher above the horizon, above Pisces and Cetus, while the bright Pegasus and Andromeda lie in the northeastern sky.
Ophiuchus, Serpens, and Libra dominate the western evening sky. Rasalhague, the brightest star in Ophiuchus, is quite bright at magnitude 2.07. The giant star can be found about halfway between Vega in Lyra and Antares in Scorpius. It marks the head of the Serpent Bearer (Asclepius) and is the northernmost star in the large pentagon or hexagon-shaped constellation figure of Ophiuchus.
Ophiuchus splits the constellation Serpens into two parts: Serpens Caput (the Serpent’s Head) and Serpens Cauda (the Serpent’s Tail). The head lies between Corona Borealis and the Scorpion’s claws, and the tail is found in the area between Antares and Altair.
Scorpius appears in the southwest. Its claws point toward the fainter Libra. Lupus (the Wolf) is found between the Fish Hook of Scorpius and the horizon in the evening.
The Southern Birds – Grus (the Crane), Phoenix, Tucana (the Toucan), and Pavo (the Peacock) – populate the southern and southeastern sky. The constellations are not particularly conspicuous but three of them host navigational stars: Ankaa (Alpha Phoenicis), Alnair (Alpha Gruis), and Peacock (Alpha Pavonis). Representing the Peacock, Pavo lies directly above the southern horizon around 10 pm. The faint Octans, the home to the south celestial pole, appears between Pavo and the horizon.
Triangulum Australe (the Southern Triangle), one of the smallest constellations in the sky, lies west of Octans. It is easily recognizable for the triangle asterism formed by its three brightest stars, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Trianguli Australis. Atria (Alpha Trianguli Australis) is the 42nd brightest star in the sky and one of the stars listed for use in celestial navigation. The constellation is found near the Southern Pointers, Alpha and Beta Centauri.
Ara (the Altar) appears between Triangulum Australe and the Fish Hook of Scorpius. The constellation’s brightest star, the bright giant or supergiant Beta Arae, shines at magnitude 2.84 from a distance of 720 light-years. The northwestern part of the constellation lies in the field of the Milky Way’s bright band.
The brightest constellations high overhead in the evening for observers in the southern hemisphere are Sagittarius and Scorpius. The two zodiac constellations are very easy to recognize.
The brightest stars of the celestial Archer form the Teapot asterism, which is used to find the many bright deep sky objects that appear in this region of the sky. These include the bright nebulae Messier 8 (the Trifid Nebula), Messier 17 (the Omega Nebula), and Messier 20 (the Lagoon Nebula).
Scorpius hosts the red supergiant Antares, the 15th brightest star in the sky. Antares is part of the Fish Hook, an asterism that curves from the Scorpion’s heart, marked by Antares, to its stinger, marked by Shaula and Lesath. Antares can be used to find the bright globular clusters Messier 4 and Messier 80.
Shaula, the second brightest star in Scorpius, can be used to find the open clusters Messier 6 (the Butterfly Cluster) and Messier 7 (Ptolemy’s Cluster). M6 and M7 lie between the Scorpion’s stinger and the Teapot in Sagittarius.
Other constellations that appear near the zenith around 10 pm include Corona Australis (the Southern Crown) near Sagittarius, Norma (the Carpenter’s Square) and Ara (the Altar) near the Fish Hook, Indus (the Indian), and the Southern Birds Pavo (the Peacock) and Grus (the Crane).
The constellations of the Summer Triangle – Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquila – dominate the northern sky for observers in southern latitudes. The Northern Cross in Cygnus can be used to find the fainter Vulpecula (the Fox), Delphinus (the Dolphin), and Sagitta (the Arrow).
Aquila (the Eagle) flies opposite the Swan. Its brightest star, Altair, is easy to identify because it is flanked by the relatively bright Tarazed and Alshain.
The stars of the Summer Triangle – Vega, Altair, and Deneb – are the 5th, 12th, and 19th brightest stars in the sky. Vega and Altair are among our nearest neighbours, located 25.04 and 16.73 light-years away. In contrast, Deneb is the most distant of the first-magnitude stars, shining at magnitude 1.25 from a distance of 2,615 light-years.
Vega appears next to a parallelogram asterism that forms the celestial harp, and Deneb sits at the top of the Northern Cross (or the bottom, since the asterism appears upside down from southern latitudes).
Hercules, one of the largest constellations in the sky, appears west of Vega. It is recognizable for the Keystone asterism, which outlines the torso of Hercules. Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, appears higher in the southwestern sky.
The eastern sky is populated by several constellations associated with water: Aquarius (the Water Bearer), Pisces (the Fish), Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish), and Cetus (the Sea Monster). Eridanus (the River), the home of the bright Achernar, appears in the southeast.
The zodiac constellations Aquarius and Pisces are identified by the Water Jar and Circlet of Pisces asterisms. The stream of water flowing from the Water Jar to the mouth of the Southern Fish is visible in good conditions. The mouth of Piscis Austrinus is marked by Fomalhaut, the 18th brightest star in the sky. Other stars in Piscis Austrinus are 4th magnitude and fainter.
Cetus, the fourth largest constellation in the sky, rises around 10 pm. It is not particularly conspicuous, but its brightest stars can be located using the Square of Pegasus, which rises in the northeastern sky.
Appearing between the Sea Monster and the Southern Fish, the constellation Sculptor is relatively faint. Its brightest star, the variable blue giant Alpha Sculptoris, has an apparent magnitude of 4.30 and is a challenging target from light-polluted areas. Sculptor is known for its famous galaxies, NGC 55 (the Whale Galaxy), NGC 253 (the Sculptor Galaxy), and the Cartwheel Galaxy (ESO 350-40).
The two largest constellations in the sky, Hydra and Virgo, set in the west in the evening. Virgo’s zodiac neighbours Libra and Scorpius are higher in the sky around 10 pm. The claws of the Scorpion face toward the horizon, and the brightest stars of Libra appear as the extension of the claws.
Lupus, the Wolf, is found between Scorpius and Centaurus in the southwest. The constellation’s brightest star, the blue giant Alpha Lupi, shines at magnitude 2.30. It is one of the nearest supernova candidates to the Sun.
The bright Centaurus and Crux appear in the southwest. They host some of the brightest stars in the sky. Centaurus is home to Rigil Kentaurus and Hadar (Alpha and Beta Centauri), the 3rd and 11th brightest stars in the sky. The brightest stars of Crux form the Southern Cross, the most familiar asterism in the far southern sky. The asterism includes two first-magnitude stars – Acrux and Mimosa – and the second-magnitude Gacrux, the nearest red giant to the Sun.
Ophiuchus and Serpens take up much of the northwestern sky. The constellations are well-known for their bright deep sky objects. Ophiuchus hosts several bright globular clusters listed in the Messier catalogue, while Serpens is home to the Eagle Nebula (Messier 16), Seyfert’s Sextet of galaxies, and the ring galaxy known as Hoag’s Object.
The southern sky is filled mostly with small, faint constellations that require good conditions to be seen. Octans, the home of the south celestial pole, is high above the southern horizon in the evening. The constellation is a challenging target from light-polluted areas. Polaris Australis (Sigma Octantis), the nearest visible star to the pole, is barely visible at magnitude 5.47.
Hydrus, Chamaeleon, and Musca occupy the region between the bright Achernar in Eridanus and Acrux in Crux, and Reticulum is found between Achernar and Canopus.
The relatively inconspicuous Musca (the Fly) appears near Crux in the southwest. Its brightest star, the massive blue Beta Cephei variable Alpha Muscae, shines at magnitude 2.69.
The bright Carina appears low in the southern sky in the evening. Its luminary Canopus is below the horizon around 10 pm, but the bright Miaplacidus and Avior can be seen below the Southern Cross in the evening. Miaplacidus is part of the Diamond Cross, and Avior is one of the four stars that form the False Cross. The three cross asterisms appear similar, but the Southern Cross is the brightest. It is easily identified using the bright Southern Pointers (Alpha and Beta Centauri), which point toward Gacrux, the star at the top of the asterism.