Cygnus Constellation, The Swan

Cygnus Constellation

Cygnus Constellation

Cygnus Constellation Outline

Cygnus Constellation Outline

The constellation Cygnus is known as the swan. The Arabs call it the Flying Eagle. The brighter stars of the constellation make it appear as a large cross because the wings are completed by some dimmer stars. This is the reason why Cygnus is also known as the “Northern Cross” to distinguish it from the smaller and much brighter Southern Cross, which can be seen from south of the equator.

There are two main Greek myths concerning Cygnus, and they conflict one another. The first tells the tale of Orpheus, the great musician who was placed in the sky not far from his beloved lyre after his death. The second myth is that Cygnus the Swan is in fact Zeus, who is king of all the gods. The Greeks say that one day Zeus changed himself into a swan. He wanted to fly out and visit the King of Sparta’s wife in secret. It is a bit unclear, but the myth says that Zeus’ transformation was driven by a fear of either the King of Sparta, or of his own wife Hera.

The Cygnus constellation is home to one of the loveliest double stars in the sky – beta Cygni or Albireo. You will need at least a good pair of binoculars to differentiate between the two members of this duo. The bright star is a golden yellow while its dim partner is a sapphire blue. Their apparent magnitudes are 3.2 and 5.4.

The brightest star of the Cygnus constellation is alpha Cygni, whose name “Deneb” comes from the Arabic word for tail. It is found at the opposite end of Cygnus from Albireo. Star are either bright because they ares relatively close to Earth or because they are themselves huge and intrinsically bright. Deneb is a prime example of the latter case. Deneb is 1,600 light-years from the Earth; the light from Deneb travelling at 186,000 miles per second, takes 1,600 years to reach us. Deneb is one of the most inherently bright stars in the sky. If we were to look at our Sun and at Deneb side by side, from an equal distance, Deneb would be roughly 60,000 times as bright!

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Great Binoculars for Viewing Constellations

Orion UltraView 10x50 Wide-Angle Binoculars

Orion UltraView 10×50 Wide-Angle Binoculars

Orion Mini Giant 15x63 Astronomy Binoculars

Orion Mini Giant 15×63 Astronomy Binoculars

Orion Giant View 25x100 Astronomy Binoculars

Orion Giant View 25×100 Astronomy Binoculars