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Facts About the Constellation Aquila
1. Symbolism: The Eagle
2. Right ascension: 20 hours
3. Declination: +5 degrees
4. Latitudes visible at: between +85 degrees and -75 degrees
5. The best time to view: 9:00 PM (21:00), during the month of August
6. Area of sky: 652 square degrees
7. Nearest star: Altair (alpha Aquilae, 16.72 light years)
8. Brightest star: Altair (alpha Aquilae, 0.77 apparent magnitude)
9. Aquila Neighboring Constellations: Sagittarius, Scutum, Serpens Cauda, Hercules, Sagitta, Delphinus, Capricornus, Aquarius
10. Stars in the Constellation: Altair (alpha aquilae), Tarazed (Gamma Aquilae), Deneb el Okab (refers to two stars, Epsilon and Zeta Aquilae), Bezek (Eta Aquilae), Tseen Foo (Theta Aquilae), Al Thalimain (refers to two stars, Iota Aquilae and Lambda Aquilae), Alshain (Gamma Aquilae)
11. Other Objects in the Constellation: Three notable planetary nebulae NGC 6751, NGC 6781, NGC 6804
12: Meteor showers: June Aquilids, Epsilon Aquilids
13. Mythology: In Hindu mythology, the Aquila constellation is identified as Garuda, a half-eagle-half human deity. The constellation has always been associated with a winged, short-necked bird or an eagle. Classical Greek mythology also identifies constellation Aquila as an eagle which was sent by Zeus to carry Ganymede, the shepherd boy, who is also identified as constellation Aquarius. Greek myth associates the origin of the constellation with the eagle Ethon.
The constellation is also associated with the Chinese love story of Qi Xi. According to the story, Niu Lang (Altair) gets separated from his wife, Zhi Nu (Vega) forever, as she becomes stranded on the far side of the river (the Milky Way).
14. Historical importance: The Aquila constellation was popularly known as Vultur Volans, or the flying vulture, among Romans. The constellation is also described by Ptolemy as one of the 48 constellations. Currently, the International Astronomical Union defines Aquila as one of the 88 constellations in space. It is also mentioned in the astronomical charts of Aratus (3rd century BC) and Eudoxus (4th century BC).
[image Right: Constellation Aquila, the Eagle sent by Zeus to kidnap Ganymede, the shepard boy, photo courtesy http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aql_bode.jpg]
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More Interesting Facts
- Astronomers observed two major novae in Aquila, the first one being in 389 BC. It was recorded as brighter than the planet Venus. The second one was observed in the year 1918 (Nova Aquilae). It was brighter than Altair. A nova should not be confused with a supernova. A nova is an old star that brightens temporarily, and a supernova (dying star) is a massive star exploding.
- NASA’s Pioneer 11 mission will pass near one of constellation Aquila’s stars in about four million years.
- Altair (Alpha Aquila), the brightest star of the constellation, is a multiple star system. It is about eight times brighter than the sun.
- Among other deep sky objects, there are three interesting planetary nebulae lying in the Aquila constellation. The NGC 6751 is planetary nebula that resembles a glowing eye. The NGC 6804 resembles a small, bright ring, and the NGC 6781 bears a striking resemblance with Ursa Major’s Owl Nebula.
[Image above left: The Aquila constellation map, Photo Credit: Tornsten Bronger, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aquila_constellation_map.png]
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