The star Deneb means “tail” in Arabic, and it represents the tail in the constellation Cygnus (which is Latin for “swan”). The swan has a long neck, stretched out as he flies down the middle of the Milky Way. The two stars forming the wings give a cross shape, and that is why it is sometimes called the “Northern Cross.”
The star at the swan’s head is called Albireo. This is one of the most beautiful double stars in the sky, because the colors of the stars contrast so well, one blue, the other yellow, revolving around one another. Can you imagine two Suns in our sky? Probably wouldn’t have too many dark nights.
Cygnus is another one of my favorite constellations, not just because it has some of the most gorgeous objects to view, but I guess it is because in the past I raised swans, real ones, right next to my own observatory, named “Cygnus” all in my back yard. We lived just south of Hollister on 16 acres of walnuts. In time it got to be too much to handle and we down-sized and moved into town, light pollution and all, no room for Swans. Not my cup of tea. But sometimes you do what you have to do.
Just before we left our beloved 16 acres, I had a party of 25 come over and enjoy the night skies together in my back yard. The lucky bidder on my donated prize for the United Way’s live auction invited his best 25 friends. They all showed up together, and I noticed right away that everyone was having a great time. I mean, a really great time. And I was thinking then; boy I sure know how to put on a party. It wasn’t long after that when I learned they all had a little party of their own, just before coming out to my place. I might add that I was not invited. Just as well though, I don’t think I could have successfully finished my presentation of the skies if I had partaken of the uninvited festivities.
But I must admit, everyone seemed to have a great time, as I was worried there for a while that they may never leave. But that is where the fun is for me, when visitors enjoy themselves so much that they don’t want to leave my back yard. And that is just fine with me, no matter what the reason. I’m just not sure if alcohol and astronomy go that well together. It was a very enjoyable evening though. Good people. (You know who you are.)
O.K. get out those dusty old telescopes and point them to the sky and see what you can find. See if you can locate the Summer Triangle, not too hard. Don’t forget family and friends, when you do. You don’t have to worry about what you and your friends are looking at; the sky is perfectly capable of speaking for itself.
What to watch for the rest of September:
Sep 16: Moon passes 4 degrees south of Saturn
Sep 18: Moon passes 4 degrees south of Jupiter
Sep 20: Moon passes 4 degrees south of Neptune
Sep 20: Full Moon
Sep 22: Autumnal equinox occurs. Get ready for Fall and Winter.
Sep 24: Moon passes 1.3 degrees south of Uranus
Sep 26: Moon is at apogee (251,432mles from Earth)
Sep 28: Last Quarter Moon