The dark skies near the new Moon are always rewarding for the faint stars now exposed. Yet, despite their lack of luster, these lesser components are by far the most numerous. Consider that on a dark, clear night you can see up to 3000 stars, yet only 35 are as bright, or brighter, than the stars of the Big Dipper.

If you look straight up at 9:45 PM this evening, within the gossamer light of the Milky Way shines the star Deneb, the least bright of the trio of stars forming the Summer Triangle. In spite of its comparative brightness, it actually reigns as a stellar powerhouse, emitting 200 thousand times more light than the Sun!

Early morning risers have likely been impressed by the rising Venus, but the next few mornings offer another treat just as twilight begins to blush along the eastern horizon. Mercury climbs a little higher each morning this week, reaching its best morning views of the year, seen close to due east from 5:30 through 6 o’clock.