As summer ends, the Summer Triangle tilts over toward the west.
Yet the top star of the triangle (and by far the most distant), Deneb in Cygnus, is near the zenith, off the top of our picture. The tilt brings Altair, the southernmost (and nearest) almost level with Vega. Vega, brightest of the three, and almost equal with Arcturus as brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, is queen of the western evening sky.
I pronounce the first vowel of Vega’s name like ee; Americans often pronounce it like ey. It was an attempt by writers in Latin from about 1545 to represent the Arabic word wâqi`, active participle of a verb meaning “descend.” The constellation we call Lyra, the lyre, was to Arab astronomers an-Nasr al-Wâqi`, “the swooping eagle” or “vulture.” The apparently earliest reference to it in English is by an author named Blundeville in 1594: “a faire starre of the second bignes called Vega, and Brineck.” I don’t know where Brineck came from.
The second vega I know of is a Spanish word for “meadow,” as in Las Vegas. And also in Lope de Vega – that is, Felix Lope de Vega y Carpio, Spanish playwright and poet of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. He was monstrously prolific and successful, but I have a prejudice against him because he poured scorn on his contemporary Cervantes.
And then there is vegan, though it doesn’t derive from eagles or meadows but is a back-formation from vegetarian. It was invented by Donald Watson in 1944 for the stricter form of vegetarianism which eschews not only dead flesh but all products from animals, such as eggs and cheese. I, like Jeremy Corbyn, am wanting to push myself into it, though it’s going to be hard for someone who likes everything. Everything. The only food I’ve ever disliked to the point of not being able to eat a second mouthful of it, at the age of about six, was burnt custard.
Recent large peer-reviewed studies in London and the USA have shown that if the world’s population became vegan, greenhouse gas emissions would be halved, the area of new land needed for feeding the increasing population would be nearly halved, and there would be 8,100,000 fewer deaths per year.