Friday, January 27, 2006

September 7, 2000

This month is for the birds: Cygnus the swan and Aquila the eagle, to be exact. These beautiful constellations fly above our heads in the evening, accompanying their migrating counterparts here below.

There's a bit of confusion up above, however, because the heavenly flappers are flying in opposite directions. Actually, they are more like English lorries nearly on a collision course as they barrel down the left sides of a narrow country lane, in this case, the Milky Way.

Deneb, the Swan's tail, and Altair, the Eagle's eye, form a large triangle of bright stars with Vega, which is located directly overhead just as darkness descends. Vega is the brightest of the three and probably the first of all stars you will see at dusk. If you are facing south, Deneb is to the upper left of Vega, and Altair to the lower left.

Now use your imagination to fill in the rest of the birds. The Swan's magnificent wingspan arcs gracefully back, while the Eagle's wings reach forward, like a diving bat's. The inner part of the Swan's wings also form the transverse beam of the Northern Cross.

By midnight on the 17th, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon form a line slanting up from the left. Watch the progression all night.

The Harvest Moon blazes on the 13th. Autumn arrives at 1:28 p.m. on the 22nd.

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