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As an amateur stargazer, I am often frustrated that Brighton is one of the worst places in the world for observing the skies! The huge output of electric lights from London and the south coast drowns out most of the faintest stars but there is still a lot that can be seen and even a few minutes sky-watching after a barbecue can reveal many interesting sights.
One of the most dominant star formations in the sky at the moment is the so-called "Summer triangle". I look forward to this every year - the first time you see it, summer is well and truly on its way. At the moment if you look down from Round Hill towards the sea at about 10 o'clock in the evening, these stars hang high up in the sky roughly over the Pavilion. As the autumn wears on, they will gradually move over to the west, a little more each night.
I think the Summer Triangle is interesting because although the three stars appear to be about the same brightness, they are quite different. The star known as Altair is one of the closest neighbouring stars to our own and very similar to the Sun.
The star at the top right corner, Vega, is much bigger, about three times the size of the Sun and lies a bit further away, although that is still relatively close on the scale of the galaxy as a whole. It has often been regarded as a likely candidate for making "contact" - it only takes 50 years for radio or television waves to travel there and back so is one of the first places where human signals might be interpreted and a reply broadcast!
The star at top left is called Deneb and by contrast, is just about the furthest star that we can see without telescopes. Estimates of its distance vary slightly but when you look up at that star, the light you are seeing probably set out on its journey before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. All this time it has travelled across space just to be absorbed by your eyes. Although it is so far away, it is very bright and very big - if it were placed in the centre of our solar system, the Earth would be inside it!
Dave Guest, September 2005