Summer Constellations: A Stargazing Guide

11th May 2024
Summer Constellations: A Stargazing Guide

Summer is the ideal time for relaxation and enjoying new experiences. We invite all lovers of astronomy and beautiful landscapes to spend time away from noisy cities and watch the unique night sky phenomenon—summer constellations. These magnificent star patterns have been a guide for travellers and astronomers for centuries and a source of inspiration for myths and legends, just like the Moon

Let’s see, what constellations are visible in summer in the Northern Hemisphere and how to observe them in all their glory.

What Are Summer Constellations?

Summer constellations are groups of stars most clearly visible in the Northern Hemisphere night sky during the summer months. There are also winter, autumn, and spring constellations, which are best seen during these seasons. Together, they’re called seasonal constellations. In their “own” season, each of them is high above the horizon and, therefore, clearly visible from sunset to dawn.

Why Are Summer And Winter Constellations Different?

Summer and winter constellations are different because the Earth’s rotation on its axis and around the Sun changes our stargazing perspective throughout the year. The stars themselves are static; only the Earth’s position relative to the stars changes, and so, the part of the celestial sphere that we can see ‘shifts.’

During the winter months and until the end of March, the Northern Hemisphere faces the edge of our Milky Way galaxy. After the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere turns towards the centre of the Milky Way. That’s why the constellations visible during the summer are different from those visible during the winter. 

Fun fact: If it weren’t for sunlight, which scatters weak starlight and prevents us from observing the stars, winter constellations would be visible in the summer, and summer constellations would be visible during the daytime in winter.

What Constellations Are Visible In Summer?

Today, there are 88 officially recognised constellations that have been defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Of these, 36 are located in the Northern Celestial Hemisphere. Not all of them are included in the summer constellations list, as they can be visible in other seasons, too. We will tell you about the brightest star patterns that you can see in all their glory in the summer. You can find many of them on the map below.

Summer Constellation Map

Summer constellation map
Summer constellation map. Credit: Wikisky

Summer Triangle Constellations

In the northern hemisphere, the Summer Triangle is one of the most visible phenomena in the summer night sky. This is an asterism consisting of three stars, Altair, Deneb, and Vega, lying in three different constellations. These luminaries are so bright that they can be seen even in cities with high light pollution. Summer triangle is best visible in the southern sky in the evenings. So, if someone asks you what constellation is seen before night in summer, feel free to name it Summer Triangle, and make sure to mention that this is not one constellation but three.

What Are The 3 Constellations Associated With The Summer Triangle?

What are the 3 constellations associated with the Summer Triangle?
Summer Triangle asterism – 3 bright stars in 3 different constellations. Credit: Susan Jensen in Odessa, Washington

Altair lies in the Eagle constellation, Deneb — in the Cygnus (Greek for Swan) constellation, and Vega — in the Lyra constellation. Altair (from Arabic Al-Nisr Al-Ṭa’ir, meaning “flying eagle”) is the brightest star in the Eagle and one of the closest stars to us visible to the naked eye. It ranks 12th brightest in the sky and is located 16.8 light-years from Earth. The star has a bluish-white light and rotates very quickly, completing a full rotation on its axis in 8.9 hours, which results in its noticeably oblate appearance.

Deneb is the Swan’s tail. It is located at an angle of +45° and, like Altair, glows with a bright bluish-white light. The star is 2,000 light-years away and is the farthest luminary that can be seen with the naked eye. Deneb is of great scientific importance as it provides information about the evolution of large stars.

Vega in the Lyra constellation closes the Summer Triangle. Due to its blue colour and the lack of equally bright stars nearby, it is easy to find in the summer sky. Once upon a time, astronomers considered Vega to be a polar star, and by its brightness, they judged the luminosity degree of other stars.

Circumpolar constellations

circumpolar constellations in the Northern Hemisphere
Main circumpolar constellations in the Northern Hemisphere.

These groups of stars never fall below the horizon and are visible throughout the year from certain latitudes. To a certain extent, they can be considered all-season constellations — and that includes summer, too. Circumpolar constellations are always in the same place in the sky, which makes them reliable landmarks for travellers, and they help astronomers find other stars and constellations in the sky. Here are the main circumpolar constellations of the Northern Hemisphere seen in summer.

Ursa Major (Big Dipper)

Ursa Major or Big Dipper is the most popular star formation in the Northern Hemisphere, consisting of seven brightest stars. Thanks to its bright glow and surprisingly similar dipper shape, this constellation is easy to find in the summer sky. In the summer, Big Dipper looks like it’s spilling its contents. If you mentally draw a line between the two stars at the edge of the dipper, Dubhe and Merak, it will lead to the North Star (Polaris).

Polaris is the northernmost star and is closest to the North Pole. It appears motionless while other stars revolve around it, allowing us to see constellations in new places at different times. The stillness and bright light of the North Star has long been used by sailors and travellers as a landmark, and for professional photographers, it serves as a subject for mesmerising shots.

Ursa Minor (Little Dipper)

The North Star helps you quickly find Ursa Minor, as it is the tip of this constellation. The stars that make up the Little Dipper are not as easy to see as the stars of Ursa Major. They are less bright and do not form such a clear figure, so Polaris is an unmistakable landmark for observers in the UK and other northern regions. Having found Ursa Minor in the night sky, you can easily move on to find other summer sky constellations.


Cassiopeia is one of the most recognisable patterns in the northern sky, known for its distinctive “W”-shaped asterism. The constellation is named after the mythological queen Cassiopeia, who, according to legend, was known for her beauty and pride. UK residents can view Cassiopeia all year round, easily finding it in the northeastern sky.


Cepheus is named after the mythical king Cepheus (Greek Kepheus), husband of Cassiopeia and father of Andromeda. According to legend, the goddess Athena placed him in the starry sky. Cepheus looks like a house or an irregular pentagon. The star formation is located near Cassiopeia and consists of several variable stars, including Delta Cephei, Alderamin. The stars of Cepheus are not particularly bright, but the constellation does contain interesting astronomical objects, such as the star cluster NGC 188, one of the oldest open clusters in the Galaxy, and the spiral galaxy NGC 6946, where many supernovae have been discovered.


Draco has an elongated, sinuous S-shape, indicating its resemblance to a dragon. In Greek mythology, this constellation is associated with the dragon Ladon, who guarded the golden apples in the Garden of the Hesperides. Draco is composed mostly of dim stars, but is easy to find as it envelops Ursa Minor. Besides, there is a famous nebula called the “Cat’s Eye” in this region, which attracts even more attention from observers. This constellation also has other notable asterisms, such as the Dragon’s Head (Caput Draconis) or the Rhombus (Reticulum), which consists of the stars β (Rastaban), γ (Eltanin), ν and ξ Draco.

Summer Zodiac Constellations

Summer zodiac constellations Leo, Virgo and Cancer
The location of Leo, Virgo and Cancer. Credit: Stellarium

The next 5 summer constellations are zodiacal. Because of their location along the ecliptic, the path the Sun takes across the sky throughout the year, they consistently become visible at night during the summer months and early fall.


This constellation is associated with the myth about one of Hercules’ labours. According to legend, during the battle with Hydra, the goddess Hera sent a crayfish to distract Hercules. In one version of the myth, Hercules threw the crayfish to the stars, and in another, he trampled it, but Hera, in order to thank the creature for its help, placed the crayfish among the stars. There are no particularly bright stars in the Cancer constellation, but there is a famous open star cluster called Manger (M44), also known as the Beehive, which is one of the closest to Earth and is clearly visible in the night sky. Cancer is best seen in early summer, especially in June.


Leo got its name because the stars in this constellation are shaped like the body and mane of a lion. It is a popular zodiac constellation recognised by ancient Greek and other cultures, as well as Muslim astronomers. At the base of the imaginary lion’s head is the golden-yellow star Algieba, which means “lion’s mane.” Leo is best observed in July.


Virgo surprises us with the scale of its territory and its brightest white double star, Spica. To find Spica in the summer night sky, you need to navigate by the Big Dipper. Place an arc through the three dipper’s handle stars, find the orange Arcturus, the brightest star in another summer constellation, Boötes, and continue the arc further. Spica will be at approximately the same distance as from the distance the ladle to Arcturus. The best time to see Virgo is late summer, in August and September.


This star formation is best observed on the map of summer constellations in June. This is the time of its maximum visibility in the Northern Hemisphere, since half of Scorpio always remains below the horizon. Scorpio is popular for its brightest, reddish-coloured star, Antares, at its centre. Antares is 550 light years away from Earth. The constellation stars are arranged in a shape reminiscent of a scorpion, with Acrab, Dschubba, and Nur representing its head and claws.


Sagittarius can be observed from July to September, found low above the horizon in the southern sky and in mid-latitudes. Most of its stars are fuzzy and dim, but there are a few bright stars that form the Teapot asterism. In August, you may notice steam rising from the spout of an imaginary teapot. This is the combined light of numerous stars merging into a milky glow. By the way, thanks to this “steam,” our galaxy received the Milky Way name.

What Other Constellations Can Be Seen After Summer Solstice?

What constellations can be seen after summer solstice?
Lyra, Hercules, Corona Borealis and Boötes, the Herdsman constellations, can be seen in the summer night sky after solstice. Credit: Carolyn Collins Petersen

The summer solstice marks the astronomical beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere. It usually falls on June 20-21, when the Sun reaches its northernmost point in the sky and the day becomes the longest in the year. After the summer solstice, the nights begin to gradually lengthen, which creates favourable conditions for observing the night sky. This means that in addition to the constellations already listed, a few more are revealed to our sight.


Hercules is the fifth largest star formation in the sky. While it has no stars of the first or second magnitude, it is home to two Messier objects and contains the Hercules Cluster of galaxies.

Hercules is easy to spot in the UK’s summer night skies, thanks to several stars forming the Keystone asterism. The asterism represents the torso of Hercules standing on the head of the defeated dragon Ladon, while the head is represented by the Ras Algethi star. The dragon itself is the stars of the neighbouring constellation Draco.


Ophiuchus is located south of Hercules. In the UK, it is easy to observe in the evening or at night from late July to early August.

In the sky, as in the legend, Ophiuchus is connected with the Serpent constellation. In the dark sky, it is clearly visible as if a man is holding a snake. The head of Ophiuchus is the bright star Rasalhague. There are a lot of globular clusters in Ophiuchus, but two large ones can be seen even with ordinary binoculars. Globular clusters are star cities that range from 100 to several hundred light-years in diameter and contain countless different stars.

Corona Borealis

This star formation lies to the west of Hercules, and to the north, it borders Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. The main stars of Corona Borealis form a semicircular crown that is easily recognisable in the sky. In Greek mythology, Corona Borealis is associated with the crown of Ariadne, which was created by Hephaestus and helped Theseus escape from the Cretan Labyrinth. Corona Borealis has only four stars brighter than magnitude 3.00. However, it gives us a stunning spectacle at the end of June – beginning of July.


From June to September, a small star formation named Dolphin can be seen high in the south and southeast of the British night sky. It is named after the myth about the dolphin, who helped the god of the seas, Poseidon, convince the Nereid Amphitrite to marry him. You need to look for the Dolphin inside the Summer Triangle. It stands out among the dim stars with a long, thin tail extending south from its diamond-shaped head. One of the famous asterisms in the constellation is the ‘Job’s Coffin,’ which consists of four stars. In August 2013, Nova V339 flared up in Delphinus, becoming briefly visible to the naked eye as the brightest nova in the sky since 1999.

How To Find A Constellation In The Sky

One of the easiest ways to find the summer constellation you want to see is to use specialised apps like Star Walk and Sky Tonight, or website, which provide a wealth of information and features to help you pinpoint constellations.

How to find a constellation in the sky: Stellarium main screen
Stellarium main screen. Credit: Stellarium

If you don’t have a smartphone or a computer at hand, you can use special paper maps or some bright stars and known star formations as landmarks to find other objects. For example, if you see Ursa Major, you can easily find Polaris and Ursa Minor.

By the way, if stargazing is more than a hobby for you, join an astronomy club. Taking part in night excursions will teach you how to find celestial objects with experienced astronomers’ help.

Please note that summer star constellations usually appear in the sky after dark and gain strength in the early morning, gradually moving from east to west. You’ll have weeks or even months to see the stars arranged in amazing patterns. Having some time to spare is great, as light pollution, moonlight, and city lights may disrupt observations.

Enjoy The Star Show!

If you want unforgettable impressions and amazing emotions, stock up on a comfortable lounger, a warm blanket, binoculars or a telescope. Be sure to choose a location that will give you the best view of the night sky. Make a note of our advice on when and which summer sky constellations will be the most clearly visible and easy to observe, and may luck and clear skies favour you!

References And Additional Information:

  • Summer Triangle: Star pattern of the season
  • Circumpolar constellations: visible all year round
  • About Constellations.
  • Zodiac Constellations | Meaning, Visibility, Map & Timeline/
  • Constellations: Guides to the Night Sky
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