There’s more to summer than sweaty buttcracks and fear inducing ice cream trucks! This sunny season also graffitied the sky with a different stellar wallpaper, which I have never been a fan of.
Orion, Taurus, Gemini—they’re finished clogging the night-time canvas (at least until next winter).
I’ve mentioned that I was going on a globular cluster hunt this summer, however, I’d like to take the opportunity and introduce you all to my pal Vega.
I’m talking about one of the brightest stars in the northern night sky that hails from the constellation Lyra! Vega is that bright blue stellar sphere that shines off-center within the frame of the image I graciously provided.
If Vega sounds familiar to you, it could be because you recently watched that crap-tastic flick Contact, starring Jodie Foster and based on the book by the Late Great Carl Sagan.
From what I remember; an intelligent signal is detected around the star Vega and from there **SPOILERS** Jodie Foster goes on all sorts of wacked out adventures. I don’t know—feel free to watch the flick yourself.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. Vega.
Vega is one bright bastard, ain’t it? Sheesh. Blazin‘ at 0.03 magnitude—Vega is the fifth brightest star in the northern sky. Situated at a neck-breaking 90º toward the zenith, Vega has been a pain in the spine to look at for all of human history.
Coincidentally: Vega is also part of the fabled Summer Triangle. I strongly recommend that any young squire learning the night sky to educate themselves on this stellar geometry.
The other two stars responsible for this stellar geometry are Deneb in the constellation Cygnus and Altair in the constellation Aquila.
It seems humanity has had quite the affinity for Vega ever since we laid eyes on the night sky. Astronomers in particular seem to have a fetish for Vega. Ever since the invention of the telescope, someone has been trying to look up Vega’s skirt. I’m not judging—just stating a fact.
Many people claim that aliens live around the star Vega. Maybe they do…maybe they don’t. For all we know, Vega could be party central! Where all the socialite star-dashers come to bust a move on some obscure moon.
Is that laughter I hear?
Hey—it may not be such a stretch after all! An asteroid belt has been observed around Vega, which indicates that planets have been forged. If there are planets…I’ll let you guess what else could be floating around.
To be honest: I was never much a Vega fan.
Only recently have I begun to admire this particular star. I pretty much ignored it for the past four summers. Yeah—I use the star to hop around the sky—but that’s as far as our relationship goes. Boo hoo.
Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape:
- Magnitude: 0.03
- Variable qualities
- Distance: 25 light years
- Mass: 2.135x sun
- Age: 500 million years!
- Fifth brightest star in northern night sky
Needless to say, Vega has some interesting stats.
Compared to our sun (4.5 billion years old) Vega is a toddler! A screaming 2-year-old that tosses tantrums when they don’t get their pink water bottle.
Strangely, since Vega has a bit more heft around its belly, it consumes fuel at a faster rate than our sun. This peculiarity makes it so that Vega is about the same “age” as our sun in terms of fuel left to burn. If steam is billowing out of your ears because your brain has evaporated—sorry—mine did as well. A long time ago.
You’ll have plenty of time to see Vega for yourself if you happen to reside north of the equator.
- Journey outside after 10:00 PM and crank your neck wayyyyy up
- Search for the brightest white/blue star
**Results will vary depending on your specific latitude**
That’s all there is to it! You don’t need to know any constellations to find this particular star if you happen to be a complete greenhorn when it comes to the night sky.
Make sure you don’t procrastinate and wait until October to try and locate Vega with the ingenious method I described above. By then—Earth will move substantially enough within its orbit to impact substantially how the constellations appear in the sky from a given location.
In other words: Vega will be closer to the horizon by the time fall arrives. Remember that.
AND If you happen to own a camera and tripod—Vega is a nice target to image with a camera lens. I’ve already discussed this topic in greater detail: Here, here and here. Feel free to peruse those gems of information because I’m too lazy to discuss the technicalities of imaging stars at the moment. Sorry.
Who knows what dark secrets Vega is hiding behind the glare. As our instruments become more refined; we’ll be granted another piece of the puzzle that will eventually paint a full portrait of the star—Vega.
Gear: Canon Rebel XSi / Canon EF 100mm USM (macro)
- Exposure = 13Sec.
- Aperture = F2.8
- ISO = 1600
- White Balance = Tungsten