The stars in the asterism of the Summer Triangle shine brightly in the summer sky, although you have to stay up very late in Scotland to see them in their full glory.
In fact if you are far enough north they will fade into the midnight sun, but in the central belt, on clear evenings, Deneb, Vega and Altair are some of the first stars to appear after sunset, shining with their clear white light.
The three constellations Aquila, Cygnus and Lyra are so distinctive in the sky that Astro-girl chose to look at them for one of her projects.
We spent an evening, well most of a night actually, at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory while she drew the stars she could see and their colours; bright white, blue-white, yellow-white, yellow, orange, and red.
Later we were fortunate to be able to observe stars through a spectroscope on the observatory telescope and see the stars’ colours split.
Fascinating even to the non-physicist.
Being a dutiful Astro-mum it is only right to celebrate the completion of any astro project with an astro bake, which is where constellation cookies are required.
Star colours are important to the project and therefore important to the bake, If you can’t get coloured sugar stars it is perfectly acceptable to use coloured sweets.
Stars are not really star-shaped anyway!
175g block butter at room temperature
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
200g self-raising flour
200g plain flour
200g dark chocolate
Assorted white chocolate stars, sugar stars and coloured sweets
Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
You want the mixture to be light and fluffy, so use and electric mixer if you can.
Sift in the two types of flour and work together into a dough.
It will be quite soft at this point.
Split the dough
Split the dough into two portions, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least an hour.
At this point half the dough can be frozen if you don’t want to make too many cookies at once.
On a floured surface, roll out one of the portions of dough to 5mm thick.
Using a large star shape, (mine is 11cm from point to point) cut star shapes from the dough, placing them on a baking tray.
Gather and re-roll the dough.
The two discs will make approximately 20 cookies.
Bake the cookies at 180 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
When cooked they will be firm to touch and beginning to turn golden brown.
Transfer to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely.
Melt the dark chocolate either in the microwave or in a bowl over hot water.
Don’t overheat it or it will split and loose its glossy sheen.
Gather your star shaped decorations and sweets
Engage your astronomical know-how
Arrange your stars and sweets to make the constellations of Aquila (above), Cygnus and Lyra.
Altair, Deneb and Vega are, conveniently, all white stars (although Deneb has a hint of blue) so they can be represented by a white chocolate star.
Mostly I keep to the main stars of the constellation, but sometimes there is a particularly colourful star outwith the main shape that needs highlighting – any excuse to add more chocolate!
Create the asterism
Arrange the cookies on a plate so that the summer triangle asterism is formed.
All the colours of the spectrum
If you run out of the ‘correct’ colours of sweets you can always make them in a different light spectrum.
Try using a white chocolate background and make them in ‘negative’.