By Arthur Upgren
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Extra resources for Night Has a Thousand Eyes: A Naked-Eye Guide to the Sky, Its Science, and Lore
The serpent forms a separate constellation appropriately named Serpens, the only one in two separate pieces, much like the United States following the admission of Alaska, and Pakistan before the secession of Bangladesh. It is time to assign the three bright stars of the summer triangle to their own respective constellations. Brilliant Vega dominates its small constellation as few other stars do. Lyra, the lyre or harp, consists of Vega and a small even parallelogram extending to the south of it.
In Alexandria, Egypt. He discovered it while comparing positions of many stars that he had determined with those of a star catalog made a few centuries earlier and now lost to us. It was a remarkable achievement, given the degree of precision necessary to detect the precessional motion among the stars. It remained for Isaac Newton to discover and explain the cause of the precession as result of the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun on the equatorial bulge of the Earth. Newton realized that precession is identical to the motion of a spinning top or gyroscope as its axis starts to lean away from a vertical orientation.
Somewhat toward the northeast of Vega is a fairly bright star, and a little farther to the southeast is another. The first is Deneb and the second is Altair. Although each of these three bright stars lies in a separate constellation, the triangle they form is the single most distinctive feature of the overhead sky all throughout the mid- and late summer. This Summer Triangle, as it is widely called, is paramount to any further familiarization with the fainter stars. All three of these stars appear blue in color.