05 July 2021

Fun Facts

1. Cygnus means ‘swan’ in Latin
2. It is known as one of the most easily spotted and recognized constellations
3. It hosts numerous discovered exoplanets within its boundaries
4. The Milky Way passes through the middle of this constellation
5. One of the exoplanets it hosts, Kepler-22b, is believed to enjoy earth-like conditions

An overview

The constellation of Cygnus makes up a T-shaped grouping of stars, with a slightly fainter star, Albireo, turning said ‘T’ into a cross. Its brightest star, the super-giant, Deneb, is also part of what is known as the Summer Triangle, which is a bright asterism consisted by stars Vega and Altair.

The constellation is one of the ancient constellations catalogued by Ptolemy, and is visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres, from June to December in the winter months of the latter.

The myth

In Greek mythology, there existed a character named Leda, who was once the Queen of Sparta. She was said to be extremely beautiful, and her beauty caught the eye of nonother than the King of Gods himself, Zeus.

One day, Leda was attacked by a ferocious eagle. Seeing this, Zeus disguised himself as a swan and rescued the Queen of Sparta, protecting her with his wings. After the event, Leda then produced two eggs, which birthed two separate sets of twins: Castor & Pollux and Clytemnestra and Helen of Troy.

In celebration of these births, Zeus placed the swain in the night sky to commemorate yet another of his successful conquests, thus birthing the constellation of Cygnus.

The constellation

The constellation of Cygnus is situated in the northern sky’s fourth quadrant, and is visible between latitudes -40 to +90 degrees. It is surrounded by the constellations of Cepheus, Draco, Lacerta, Lyra, Pegasus, and Vulpecula; and belongs to the Herculean family of constellations alongside Aquila, Ara, Centaurus, Corona, Australis, and more.

Of the nine main stars it consists, there exists five celestial bodies of note: Deneb, a blue-white supergiant 200 times larger than our sun and 200,000 times more luminous; Rukh, a triple-star system; Sadr, an extremely distant star 2,000 lightyears away from earth with a radius 150 times that of the sun; Gienah, an orange giant twice the size of the sun; and Albireo, a double-star.

Want to learn about other constellations aside from Cygnus? Find out more about Equuleus or Auriga. Alternatively, you can simply click here for a full list of constellations.