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Learning about the different constellations can be great fun. The Aquila constellation is easy to find in the northern sky throughout the summer, so it’s a good place to start for beginners. Keep reading as we uncover several facts and myths about this ancient constellation to help you understand the night sky better.
Many people can find the Aquila constellation by first locating the Cygnus constellation, which many know as The Swan. On a clear night, you will see The Swan flying down the Milky Way galaxy, appearing as a band of stars that almost resembles a cloud. It moves toward Aquila, which resembles a crooked cross or a plus sign.
The brightest stars of Aquila form the summer triangle, an asterism (constellation inside a constellation), and you can view it from early summer until late in the year.
Aquila is one of Ptolemy’s original 48 constellations that he cataloged around 150 A.D.
Aquila is a Latin word meaning eagle, and the constellation represents the bird that carried Zeus’s thunderbolts. The collection of stars in the constellation resembles a bird in flight.
Ancient Egypt saw the Aquila constellation as a bird accompanying the god Horus, while the Romans called it the Flying Vulture.
One feature that makes the Aquila constellation stand out for stargazers is that it contains several double stars, including 57 Aquilae, an orange star paired with a white one. Many beginners can spot this pair using an inexpensive telescope or even binoculars.
The Aquila constellation lies in the plane of the Milky Way, which means you can use it to find several faint but detectable objects, including several star clusters and planetary nebulae.
Since Aquila lies in the plane of the Milky Way, many people like to use it as a starting point for exploring the night sky. It’s an easy way to locate and observe star clusters and objects in nearby constellations, like Sagittarius, which is in the direction of the center of the galaxy.
The International Astronomical Union lists Aquila as the 22nd largest modern constellation, putting it in the top 25% regarding constellation size.
Aquila belongs to the Hercules family of constellations, which includes Lupus, Ara, Serpens, Crux, Hydra, Sagitta, and Hercules.
Besides the Aquila constellation representing the eagle that carried Zeus’s thunderbolts, stories also depict it as a messenger for Zeus and an eagle that helps protect Eros’s arrow. In another story, Aquila is Aphrodite in disguise.
Altair is the brightest star in the Aquila constellation and the 12th brightest star in the night sky. It’s also the closest star from the Aquila constellation and is about 16.7 light years away.
You can locate the Hercules Corona Borealis Great Wall by looking at the Ikea constellation. The structure is more than 10 billion light-years across and contains the largest concentration of galaxies that we currently can see.
Two meteor showers emanate from the Aquila constellation: the June Aquila and the Epsilon Aquila. Both are quite dim and will require optical tools to view them, but you can see the Epsilon Aquila from the 4th to the 27th of May every year, and as the name suggests, the June Aquila occurs throughout June.
Astronomers believe that nine of the stars in the Aquila constellation contain exoplanets, which are planets that rotate around a distant star, much like how Earth revolves around our sun. Scientists often look at these exoplanets for signs of extraterrestrial life.
The Aquila constellation is easy to find and looks like a bent cross or plus sign, making it a great starting point for new stargazers exploring the night sky. Since it’s part of the Milky Way plane, it contains many hard-to-find objects, like nebulae and star clusters. You even get to observe the Great Wall, the largest known visible structure in the universe at more than 10 billion light-years across.
Featured Image Credit: Aquila constellation in the night sky
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Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who contributes to a wide range of blogs covering information on computer programming, pets, birding, tools, fitness, guitars, and optics. Outside of writing, Ed is often found working in the garden or performing DIY projects in the house. Ed is also a musician, spending his time composing music for independent films or helping people repair their guitars.
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