We are getting deep into the summer season now. About an hour after sunset, look straight up. Nearly overhead, you will see a very bright star. That star is Vega. Vega is one of the three stars of the so-called Summer Triangle (along with Deneb and Altair). And the only star in the sky that is brighter than Vega right now is Arcturus.
One of the reasons Vega is so bright is that it is relatively close to us, 25 light-years away. In January, NASA announced that it had found evidence that Vega is surrounded by two bands of asteroids (like our own Solar System). The gap between the inner and outer asteroid belts suggests that there may be planets orbiting there.
Vega was also featured in the Carl Sagan science fiction novel, Contact, that was turned into a movie starring Jodie Foster.
Another interesting fact about Vega is that periodically, as the axis of the Earth’s rotation slowly wobbles around once every 26,000 years, it lines up closely to the celestial North Pole, becoming the North Star.
The bright blue-white light of Vega will be high overhead for the rest of the summer.