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Stars in the Sky Tonight

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The stars in tonight’s sky form many familiar patterns that make their host constellations easy to identify.

In the northern hemisphere, the brightest stars high overhead in the evening are Arcturus and Vega, the luminaries of the constellations Boötes and Lyra. In the southern hemisphere, Rigil Kentaurus and Hadar in the constellation Centaurus, Antares in Scorpius, and the stars of the Southern Cross dominate the evening sky.

The stars visible tonight depend on the observer’s location and time of night. The star maps below show the first and second magnitude stars in the night sky as they appear around 10 pm in the mid-northern, equatorial, and southern latitudes.

Northern hemisphere

The brightest stars in the sky around 10 pm are Arcturus, Vega, Capella, Altair, Antares, Pollux, Deneb, and Regulus.

Arcturus, Vega and Capella are the fourth, fifth and sixth brightest stars in the sky. They are the lucidae of the constellations Boötes (the Herdsman), Lyra (the Lyre) and Auriga (the Charioteer). Each of these stars is part of at least one prominent seasonal asterism.

Capella and Pollux, which set early in the northwestern sky, are part of the Winter Circle, an asterism formed by six first-magnitude stars best seen during the northern hemisphere winter. Capella is also part of the smaller hexagon of Auriga, formed by the brightest stars of the Charioteer constellation with Elnath in Taurus. Most stars of the Winter Circle and Auriga’s hexagon are invisible around 10 pm.

Vega forms the Summer Triangle with Altair and Deneb, the brightest stars in the constellations Aquila (the Eagle) and Cygnus (the Swan). Deneb sits atop the Northern Cross, a conspicuous asterism formed by the brightest stars in Cygnus, while Altair forms the Shaft of Aquila (or the Family of Aquila) with two fainter stars flanking it, Tarazed and Alshain. These asterisms appear high overhead throughout the summer months.

stars visible tonight,sky map tonight

Stars visible tonight in the northern hemisphere, image: Stellarium

Antares, the star that marks the heart of the celestial Scorpion, is part of the Fish Hook asterism, which is only partly visible around 10 pm. Regulus appears at the base of the Sickle of Leo, an asterism that outlines the Lion’s head and mane.

Several other prominent seasonal asterisms are visible in the evening. Regulus forms the Spring Triangle with Arcturus in Boötes and Spica in Virgo. Arcturus and Spica also form the Diamond of Virgo with the fainter Denebola in Leo and Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs). Spica appears at the base of the Y of Virgo, an asterism formed by Virgo’s brightest stars, which can be used to find the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. These asterisms are best seen in the spring and will keep setting earlier in the evening as the summer approaches.

Stars in the northern sky

The northern sky is dominated by several prominent asterisms. The Big Dipper appears above the northwestern horizon. It is formed by the brightest stars of the Great Bear constellation (Ursa Major). Six of these stars shine at second magnitude and easily stand out in the sky, making the asterism one of the most familiar features of the northern sky.

Merak and Dubhe, the outer stars of the Big Dipper’s bowl, are known as the Pointers. They point toward Polaris, the North Star.

Polaris, the brightest star in Ursa Minor (the Little Bear), is the nearest visible star to the north celestial pole. It has an apparent magnitude of 1.98 and lies 323-433 light-years away. It is a class F supergiant with a radius 37.5 times that of the Sun and a mass 5.4 times the Sun’s. While it is easily visible even from light-polluted areas, Polaris is not a first-magnitude star. It is on average only the 48th brightest star in the sky.

Polaris marks the tip of the Little Bear’s tail and the end of the Little Dipper’s handle. Unlike the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper is not very conspicuous in the sky. Only Polaris and the outer stars of the bowl – Kochab and Pherkad – can be spotted from heavily light-polluted areas. Kochab and Pherkad are known as the Guardians of the Pole because they always circle close to Polaris. (All stars appear to circle around the pole star, but Kochab and Pherkad are its nearest bright neighbours.)

stars in the northern sky,stars visible in the northern sky

Stars in the northern sky tonight, image: Stellarium

Draco (the Dragon) contains only one second-magnitude star, the K-type giant Eltanin. Eltanin forms the head of the celestial Dragon with three fainter stars (Rastaban, Kuma and Grumium) and marks one of the Dragon’s eyes. The star can be found using the Northern Cross, a bright, large asterism in the constellation Cygnus. A line through the beam of the cross leads to Eltanin.

The bright Capella may be spotted low in the northwestern sky before it sets. It is the brightest star in the constellation Auriga (the Charioteer) and the sixth brightest star in the sky.

The bright stars of Cassiopeia (the Queen) form a W in the sky. The rightmost stars of the W point in the direction of Alderamin, the brightest star in Cepheus (the King).

Stars in the eastern sky

The stars of the Summer Triangle are prominent in the eastern and northeastern sky. Vega, Altair, and Deneb are the brightest stars in the constellations Lyra (the Lyre), Aquila (the Eagle), and Cygnus (the Swan). They are the fifth, 12th, and 19th brightest stars in the sky.

Vega appears next to a parallelogram asterism that represents the celestial Lyre. Altair is flanked by two relatively bright stars, Tarazed and Alshain. The three stars form an asterism known as the Shaft of Aquila.

Deneb marks the top of the Northern Cross, one of the most recognizable summer asterisms in the northern hemisphere. The supergiant shines at magnitude 1.25 from a distance of 2,615 light-years and has a mass 19 times that of the Sun. It is by far the most distant first-magnitude star. Vega and Altair appear brighter only because they are much closer to us. They lie 25.04 and 16.73 light-years away respectively.

The second-magnitude Sadr and Aljanah are also part of the Northern Cross. Like Deneb, they are at an advanced stage of evolution. Sadr appears at the centre of the asterism and marks the celestial Swan’s chest. It is an F-type supergiant located approximately 1,800 light-years away. Like Deneb, it is a supernova candidate, with a mass about 12 times that of the Sun. Aljanah is an orange giant 72.7 light-years away. It marks one of the Swan’s wings. It has twice the Sun’s mass and an estimated age of 1.5 billion years.

The stars of Ophiuchus (the Serpent Bearer) form a large polygon that occupies much of the southeastern sky. Ophiuchus is the 11th largest constellation in the sky, but with only two second-magnitude stars, it does not stand out as readily as Cygnus in the sky. Rasalhague, the constellation’s brightest star, is a class A giant located 48.6 light-years away. It marks the head of the Serpent Bearer. It appears roughly halfway between Vega and Antares.

Hercules is another large constellation in the eastern sky – the fifth largest of all constellations – but it does not contain any stars brighter than third magnitude. It can be identified using the Keystone, a rectangular asterism formed by four of the constellation’s relatively bright stars. The asterism is found between the bright Vega and Alphecca, the star that marks the jewel in the Northern Crown (Corona Borealis).

stars in the eastern sky tonight

Stars in the eastern sky tonight, image: Stellarium

Stars in the western sky

The Big Dipper is prominent in the northwestern sky. The middle five stars – Mizar, Alioth, Phecda, Megrez, and Merak – are members of the same family, the Ursa Major association. These stars formed in the same molecular cloud and are moving together through space. Alkaid and Dubhe appear in the same area of the sky but are not associated with the group. They are more distant than the other stars. Alioth, the brightest star in Ursa Major, shines at magnitude 1.77 from a distance of 82.6 light-years.

Megrez and Phecda, the inner stars of the Big Dipper’s bowl, can be used to find the constellation Leo. A line extended from Megrez through Phecda points towards Regulus, Leo’s brightest star, and the Sickle of Leo.

Regulus is the 21st brightest star in the sky and the faintest first-magnitude star. It is a hot blue subgiant located 79.3 light-years away. It marks the Lion’s heart and appears at the base of the Sickle of Leo, an asterism that represents the Lion’s head and mane.

Leo contains two second-magnitude stars. Denebola marks the Lion’s tail and Algieba is part of the Sickle.

Pollux and Castor, the brightest stars in Gemini (the Twins), may be spotted setting in the northwestern sky in the evening. Depending on location, they may still appear low above the horizon at 10 pm.

stars in the western sky tonight

Stars in the western sky tonight, image: Stellarium

Stars in the southern sky

The stars of the zodiac constellations Scorpius (the Scorpion), Libra (the Scales), and Virgo (the Maiden) dominate the southern sky in the evening. Scorpius and Virgo contain one first-magnitude star each, while the brightest stars in the fainter Libra are only third magnitude.

Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius, and the stars that outline the Scorpion’s claws are visible in the evening, but the stars that form the tail and stinger are below the horizon around 10 pm. The stars of Libra appear as the extended claws of the Scorpion and were once considered to be part of Scorpius. The names of the constellation’s several bright stars – Zubeneschamali, Zubenelgenubi, and Zubenelhakrabi – all refer to the claws.

Spica, the luminary of Virgo and the 16th brightest star in the sky, appears at the base of the Y of Virgo, an asterism that can be used to find the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. The brightest stars of the nearby Corvus (the Crow) form a rectangular asterism known as Spica’s Spanker or the Sail. The two northernmost stars – Gienah and Algorab – point towards Spica.

stars in the southern sky tonight

Stars in the southern sky tonight, image: Stellarium

Equatorial latitudes

For observers in the equatorial latitudes, the brightest stars visible around 10 pm are Rigil Kentaurus, Arcturus, Vega, Hadar, Altair, Acrux, Antares, Spica, Deneb, and Mimosa. Arcturus and Antares appear high overhead while the other stars are closer to the horizon.

Vega, Altair and Deneb form the Summer Triangle, which rises in the northeastern sky in the evening. Arcturus and Spica are part of the Spring Triangle, which they form with Regulus. The two bright stars also form the Diamond of Virgo with the fainter Cor Caroli and Denebola.

Antares is part of the Fish Hook, a prominent asterism formed by the brightest stars in Scorpius, while Acrux and Mimosa form the Southern Cross with Gacrux, Imai, and Ginan. The Southern Cross can be distinguished from the nearby False Cross using the Southern Pointers, Rigil Kentaurus and Hadar. The two stars point toward Gacrux, the star at the top of the Southern Cross.

stars visible tonight in equatorial latitudes

Stars visible tonight in equatorial latitudes, image: Stellarium

Northern sky

Draco, the eighth largest constellation in the sky, occupies much of the northern sky in the evening. Its brightest star, Eltanin, is part of an asterism that represents the Dragon’s head. Eltanin and its fainter neighbour Rastaban mark the Dragon’s eyes. The two stars are found along the imaginary line extended through the beam of the Northern Cross in Cygnus.

The body of the celestial Dragon winds around the bowl of the Little Dipper. Polaris, the star at the end of the Dipper’s handle, marks the approximate location of the north celestial pole and is mostly invisible to observers in equatorial latitudes. However, Kochab and Pherkad, the outer stars of the Dipper’s bowl, are relatively bright and easily visible above the northern horizon.

The more prominent Big Dipper appears perpendicular to the northwestern horizon in the evening. It is formed by seven bright stars in the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. Alkaid, Mizar and Alioth form the handle, while Megrez, Phecda, Merak and Dubhe outline the bowl.

The Keystone in the constellation Hercules appears just above the Dragon’s head in the evening. The asterism is formed by Pi, Eta, Zeta, and Epsilon Herculis. It represents the torso of Hercules.

stars visible tonight in the northern sky in equatorial latitudes

Stars in the northern sky tonight in equatorial latitudes, image: Stellarium

Eastern sky

Three first-magnitude stars appear above the eastern and northeastern horizon. Vega, Deneb and Altair, the luminaries of the constellations Lyra (the Lyre), Cygnus (the Swan) and Aquila (the Eagle), form the Summer Triangle, a bright, large asterism that can be used to identify the fainter stars and constellations in the vicinity. Vega and Altair are among the brightest stars in the sky because they lie in the solar neighbourhood, while Deneb is intrinsically luminous. The supergiant lies 2,615 light-years away.

Deneb forms the Northern Cross with the fellow supergiant Sadr, giant Aljanah, subgiant Fawaris, and bright giant Albireo. All five stars are at a late stage of their life cycles. Sadr appears at the centre of the Cross, Aljanah and Fawaris mark the crossbeam, and Albireo, one of the finest optical double stars in the sky, appears at the base. In the constellation figure of the Swan, Albireo marks the beak, Deneb the tail, Aljanah and Fawaris the wings, and Sadr the chest.

Sagittarius (the Archer) dominates the southeastern sky. The constellation is easily recognizable because its brightest stars form the Teapot asterism, which appears next to the Milky Way’s bright band. Kaus Australis, the brightest star in Sagittarius, forms the Archer’s bow with Kaus Media and Kaus Borealis. Nunki, the constellation’s second brightest star, is part of the Milk Dipper, an asterism formed by the five leftmost stars of the Teapot.

stars visible in the eastern sky tonight in equatorial latitudes

Stars in the eastern sky tonight in equatorial latitudes, image: Stellarium

Western sky

The brightest stars in the western sky in the evening are Arcturus and Spica, the brightest stars in the constellations Boötes (the Herdsman) and Virgo (the Maiden). Both stars can be found using the handle of the Big Dipper. The curved line extended away from the Dipper first leads to Arcturus and then to Spica.

Shining at magnitude -0.05 from a distance of 36.7 light-years, Arcturus is the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. It is only fainter than Sirius, Canopus, and Alpha Centauri. The K-type giant appears at the base of the Kite, an asterism formed by the brightest stars in the Herdsman constellation. Izar, another star in the Kite, is one of the finest double stars in the sky.

Spica marks the base of the Y of Virgo, an asterism also formed by Porrima, Minelauva, Zaniah, Zavijava, and Vindemiatrix. The crooked Y pattern appears almost upside down in the evening. One side of the Y points in the direction of the fainter Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair), while the other points towards Leo.

The bright Denebola, Leo’s second brightest star, marks the Lion’s tail and appears above the western horizon in the evening. The rest of the constellation, including Regulus, has mostly set by 10 pm.

The brightest stars of Corvus (the Crow) appear below Spica. They form a quadrilateral asterism called Spica’s Spanker and can be used to find the fainter stars of Crater (the Cup) and Hydra (the Water Snake).

stars visible in the western sky tonight in equatorial latitudes

Stars in the western sky tonight in equatorial latitudes, image: Stellarium

Southern sky

The brightest stars above the southern horizon in the evening are Rigil Kentaurus and Hadar (Alpha and Beta Centauri). Alpha Centauri is the third brightest star in the sky, after Sirius and Canopus, while Hadar is the 11th brightest star. Alpha and Beta Centauri are the brightest stars in the constellation Centaurus (the Centaur).

Alpha and Beta Centauri are called the Pointers (or Southern Pointers) because they point in the direction of the Southern Cross, a prominent southern asterism commonly used to find true south.

Alpha Centauri is the nearest star system to the Sun. It is a triple star system, composed of the yellow dwarf Rigil Kentaurus (Alpha Cen A), orange dwarf Toliman (Alpha Cen B), and red dwarf Proxima Centauri (Alpha Cen C). Proxima Centauri is the nearest individual star to the Sun. It lies only 4.2465 light-years away. The star is invisible to the unaided eye, but the brighter Rigil Kentaurus and Toliman are individually among the brightest stars in the sky and have a combined apparent magnitude of -0.27.

A line from Alpha through Beta Centauri leads to Gacrux, the star that marks the top of the Southern Cross. The asterism is also formed by the brighter Acrux and Mimosa and the fainter Imai and Ginan. These five stars are the luminaries of the constellation Crux, the smallest constellation in the sky.

Rigil Kentaurus and Hadar can also be used to find Triangulum Australe (the Southern Triangle), one of the brighter southern constellations. Atria, the constellation’s brightest star, is on average the 42nd brightest star in the sky. It forms a triangle with the fainter Beta and Gamma Trianguli Australis that gives the constellation its name. The triangle points in the direction of the fainter constellation Pavo (the Peacock). Pavo has only one star brighter than magnitude 3.0, the hot blue main sequence star Peacock, named after the host constellation.

stars visible in the southern sky tonight

Stars in the southern sky tonight in equatorial latitudes, image: Stellarium

The stars of Scorpius are high above the horizon in the evening. They are easy to identify because the constellation figure of Scorpius really looks like a scorpion, with clearly outlined claws, body, tail, and stinger. The red supergiant Antares connects the Scorpion’s claws with an asterism known as the Fish Hook, which curves from Antares to Shaula at the Scorpion’s stinger.

The fainter Lupus (the Wolf) is found between Scorpius and Centaurus. It contains only one second-magnitude star, the hot blue giant Alpha Lupi. Located approximately 460 light-years away, the star is one of the nearest supernova candidates to the Sun.

Southern hemisphere

The brightest stars visible from the southern hemisphere in the evening are Canopus, Rigil Kentaurus, Arcturus, Achernar, Hadar, Altair, Acrux, Antares, Spica, and Mimosa.

Altair, the brightest star in the constellation Aquila (the Eagle) lies in the eastern-northeastern sky. It forms the Shaft of Aquila with the fainter Alshain and Tarazed, the two stars flanking it. Arcturus and Spica in the constellations Boötes (the Herdsman) and Virgo (the Maiden) appear high in the northern and northwestern sky. They form the Great Diamond with the fainter Denebola in Leo (the Lion) and Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs).

Canopus and Achernar, the luminaries of Carina (the Keel) and Eridanus (the River), appear low in the southern and southwestern sky, while the stars of the Southern Cross, including the first-magnitude Acrux and Mimosa and second-magnitude Gacrux, are high overhead around 10 pm. The Southern Pointers, Alpha and Beta Centauri (Rigil Kentaurus and Hadar), appear next to the Southern Cross.

stars in the sky tonight in the southern hemisphere

Stars visible tonight in the southern hemisphere, image: Stellarium

Northern sky

The brightest star in the northern sky is Arcturus, the luminary of the constellation Boötes (the Herdsman). Arcturus is the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere and the fourth brightest star in the sky, after Sirius, Canopus, and Alpha Centauri. The giant is part of the Kite asterism, which appears upside down in the evening.

Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, appears high in the northwestern sky. It forms the Diamond of Virgo with Arcturus and the fainter Denebola in the constellation Leo and Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs).

The stars of Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown) appear above the northern horizon, between the Kite and the bright Rasalhague in the constellation Ophiuchus (the Serpent Bearer). Alphecca, an eclipsing binary star located 75 light-years away, marks the jewel in the Northern Crown. It appears between Arcturus and the Keystone asterism in the constellation Hercules.

stars in the northern sky in the southern hemisphere

Stars in the northern sky tonight in the southern hemisphere, image: Stellarium

Eastern sky

The brightest star in the eastern sky is Altair, the luminary of the constellation Aquila (the Eagle). The star marks the Eagle’s neck and is part of Aquila’s bird-like constellation figure. It is flanked by two other relatively bright stars, Alshain and Tarazed.

The constellation Sagittarius, the Archer, appears high above the eastern horizon. Its brightest stars form the Teapot, an asterism that looks like a teapot or a crooked house. On a clear, dark night, the band of the Milky Way looks like steam coming out of the spout.

The brightest stars in Sagittarius – the hot blue giant Kaus Australis and B-type main sequence star Nunki – shine at second magnitude. The other stars of the Teapot are third magnitude, making the asterism easily visible from areas without too much light pollution.

Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, occupies much of the northeastern sky. The constellation is recognizable because its brightest stars form a large polygon that stretches from the constellation Hercules to Scorpius.

Rasalhague, the brightest star in Ophiuchus, is a white giant located 48.6 light-years away. The star appears roughly halfway between the bright Vega in the northern constellation Lyra and Antares in Scorpius.

stars in the eastern sky from the southern hemisphere

Stars in the eastern sky in the southern hemisphere, image: Stellarium

Western sky

There aren’t any exceptionally bright stars appearing directly west in the evening. The orange giant or bright giant Alphard, the luminary of Hydra, lies low above the horizon and sets around 10 pm. It appears isolated in this area of the sky.

Denebola at the Lion’s tail sets in the northwest in the evening but is still visible around 10 pm. The brighter Regulus, the star marking the Lion’s heart, has already set.

Spica and other stars in the constellation Virgo appear higher in the northwestern sky. Spica’s Spanker (the Sail), an asterism formed by the brightest stars of the neighbouring Corvus (the Crow), appears just southwest of Spica. The northern side of the asterism points towards Virgo’s lucida.

The southwestern sky is populated by the bright stars of Carina, Puppis, and Vela, the constellations that represent the keel, stern and sails of the mythical ship Argo (Argo Navis). Avior and Aspidiske in Carina form a diamond-shaped asterism known as the False Cross with Alsephina and Markeb in Vela. The asterism is often confused for the brighter and smaller Southern Cross, which is used to find the south celestial pole.

stars visible in the western sky from the southern hemisphere

Stars in the western sky in the southern hemisphere, image: Stellarium

Southern sky

Two exceptionally bright stars appear low above the southern and southwestern horizon. Achernar, the brightest star in the constellation Eridanus, marks the end of the celestial River. The rest of the constellation, which stretches all the way to Orion (the Hunter), is below the horizon.

Canopus, the brightest star in the constellation Carina and the second brightest star in the sky (after Sirius), appears low in the southwestern sky. The bright giant shines at magnitude -0.74 from a distance of 310 light-years. Miaplacidus and Avior, Carina’s second and third brightest stars, appear higher in the sky. Avior is part of the False Cross, while Miaplacidus forms the fainter Diamond Cross with Theta, Upsilon and Omega Carinae.

Peacock, Alnair and Tiaki are the brightest stars appearing in the southeastern sky. The hot blue Peacock was named after its host constellation, Pavo (the Peacock). The star lies 179 light-years away. It is slightly fainter than Alnair, the brightest star in the constellation Grus (the Crane). Like Peacock, Alnair is a B-type main sequence star several times more massive than the Sun. Peacock is a spectroscopic binary system, while Alnair is a single star.

Tiaki, the second-brightest star in Grus, is the only other second-magnitude star in the southeastern sky. The variable red giant shines at magnitude 2.15 from a distance of 177 light-years. It has a radius 180 times that of the Sun and shines with a luminosity of 2,500 Suns. It marks the heart of the celestial Crane.

stars visible in the southern sky in the southern hemisphere

Stars in the southern sky in the southern hemisphere, image: Stellarium