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Nine Autumn Constellations You Can See Right Now

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Autumn is a great time for stargazing; the nights are clear and it hasn’t become too chilly yet to set up camp in the backyard and stare at the sky. 


Constellations change position with location and season because of the earth’s revolution around the sun. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you should be able to identify these constellations during the fall. But be patient—it might take a little practice to find them. So grab a cup of hot cocoa, a warm blanket, and a pair of binoculars and enjoy the view. 


Pegasus
Facing due east, look for a large diamond of four bright stars that looks like a kite flying in the night sky. This is the Great Square of Pegasus, supposedly the body of the mythical winged horse. As the night progresses, the diamond will rise higher and higher into the sky. 



Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 


Andromeda
Find the brightest star in the Great Square of Pegasus and use it to identify a “V” shape in the sky. This is the Andromeda constellation, which contains the Andromeda Galaxy, the farthest part of the universe visible to an unaided observer on earth. Using your binoculars, trace the “V” about two-thirds of the way up to find the galaxy, which appears as a bright star with a milky haze around it. 



 


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Perseus
East of Andromeda, Perseus appears as a backwards “K” through which the Milky Way galaxy flows. In Greek myth, Perseus slew Medusa and rescued Andromeda. The star Algol, which varies in brightness, is at the northeastern branch of the “K” and represents the Gorgon’s head that Perseus holds out from his body, Andromeda. Perseus is also recognizable as a dense cluster of stars; they seem too many to count. 



Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons




 


Cassiopeia
Cassiopeia, part of the Milky Way galaxy, is northeast of Perseus, and looks like a slightly bent “W.” According to the Greeks, Cassiopeia was the mother of Andromeda and the “W” represents her crown. These three letter-shaped constellations—the “V” of Andromeda, the “K” of Perseus, and the “W” of Cassiopeia—form a triangle in the autumn sky. 



 


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 


Cepheus
Cepheus, Cassiopeia’s husband, is named after the King of Ethopia in Greek myth. Cepheus and Cassiopeia stand side by side in the night sky. Cepheus is shaped like a house, and because it has no bright stars, it can be difficult for the untrained eye to perceive. For the practicing astronomer, though, it’s an important constellation to know. Cepheus is full of double stars, binary systems in which one star orbits another, and contains three red supergiants, the largest stars by volume in the universe. 



 


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 


Triangulum
South of Perseus and southeast of Andromeda, you’ll find a tiny, triangular constellation with only faint stars. This is Triangulum, originally called Deltoton by the Greeks after the shape of the letter Delta and Nili Domus by the Egyptians after the Nile Delta. 



 


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 




 


Aries
Southwest of Triangulum, you’ll be able to spot Aries. Even though this is considered a spring zodiac symbol, the constellation is visible in the autumn. Aries appears as two bright stars with many dimmer stars. 



 


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Auriga
Modern astrologers often describe Auriga the Charioteer as a house on its side with a V-shaped roof, though the ancients saw it as the pointed helmet of a charioteer. (Auriga is Latin for “charioteer.”) The upper right corner is the brightest star visible in autumn, Capella, which makes the constellation easy to identify. Capella is actually a double star, though it’s difficult to see this with the naked eye. Auriga is best viewed later in the season and is also right above the easy-to-spot Orion’s Belt (three bright stars in a straight line), if finding Capella proves difficult. 



 


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 


Taurus
Auriga shares a star with Taurus the Bull to the southeast. Taurus appears as a “V” shaped star group believed to represent a bull’s head. 



Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 


Pisces
Like Aries and Taurus, Pisces is more often associated with spring, but it is visible in fall. Found north of Triangulum, Pisces appears as a large “V” pointing toward the southwest. According to Greek myth, the constellation represents the fish into which Aphrodite and her son, Eros, transformed in order to escape the monster, Typhon. They’re tied together with a cord on their tails in order not to lose one another. Pisces can be very faint, so it might take some practice and careful searching to identify. 



 


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 


A Brilliant Evening Is in the Stars
You may not spot all of these constellations on your first night, but you’ll probably see most of them. Stargazing is a low budget, creative way to have fun, hone your perceptions, and let your mind (and your binoculars) take you on a trip through time and space.




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