You may think that constellations are physical forms, but they’re not.
The stars that form the constellations don’t even have to be connected or close to each other.
The idea is that if you were to draw lines connecting these stars, it would make a pattern.
Then, with lots of imagination, you could see the pattern forming a shape of an object, animal, or person.
In today’s article, we’ll focus on a unique and interesting constellation, Aquila.
Aquila Constellation Facts Everyone Should Know
Aquila constellation was first categorized by Ptolemy, an astronomer of the 2nd century, among his 48 listed constellations.
Other ancient astronomers also mentioned Aquila, such as Aratus in the 3rd century and Exodus in the 4th century.
Now, Aquila is listed among the 88 modern constellations of our universe. It’s ranked as the 22nd largest modern constellation by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
The constellation occupies about 652 square degrees of our night sky. Its name, Aquila, means “eagle” in Latin since it takes the bird’s shape.
Aquila is a member of the Hercules family of constellations.
This family includes some other constellations, including Lupus, Sagitta, Ara, Serpens, Crux, and Hydra. And, of course, Hercules.
Aquila takes part in several different myths.
The most famous story of all is in Greek Mythology.
Because the constellation takes the shape of an eagle, it was deemed as Zeus’ messenger and carrier of his thunderbolt.
In another story, Aquila is the eagle that Zeus sent to bring Ganymede to Mount Olympus.
The shepherd, often represented by the Aquarius constellation, later became the gods’ cupbearer.
The constellation is also mentioned in another myth as the eagle that protected Eros’ arrow.
This arrow is the one that hit Zeus and made him fall in love.
In an alternate story, Aquila is Aphrodite in disguise when she pretends to be a bird hunting down Zeus so that Nemesis, Zeus’ love, would shelter him.
The Greeks weren’t the only people that showed interest in Aquila.
In Roman mythology, Aquila represents Aetos Dios, the eagle of Zeus/Jupiter.
This eagle was used as a symbol of Roman emperors.
The constellation’s stars make a pattern of a 22-sided polygon.
When you look at this polygon, it takes the shape of a bird spreading its wings.
This bird looks close to an eagle, hence the name.
Aquila’s three brightest stars make a line that can be seen as the eagle’s head.
However, they could also be seen as parts of its wings.
Aquila is among the 15 celestial equatorial constellations.
It’s located in the fourth quadrant (NQ4) of the northern hemisphere between latitudes +90° and -75°.
Its right ascension coordinates are 18h 41m to 20h 39m, while its declination coordinates are 18.6882229° to 11.8664360°.
Since the constellation’s declination is primarily in the northern sky, it can’t be located in some areas of the southern hemisphere.
The best time to see the majestic constellation is in August at 9 p.m.
Aquila is neighboring several constellations, including Hercules, Aquarius, Scutum, Sagitta, and Capricornus.
Fun fact: our galaxy, the Milky Way, passes through the border of the Aquila constellation.
Ptolemy included 19 stars in the Almagest that are found in Aquila.
Now, only ten are considered the constellation’s main stars.
These stars are:
Aquila contains three stars that are brighter than magnitude 3.00.
Altair is the brightest of them all.
The alpha, beta, and gamma stars of Aquila are Altair, Alshain, and Tarazed.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, Altair!
Altair, or Alpha Aquilae, is the brightest star in the constellation and is also the 12th brightest star in our night sky.
It has a 0.77 magnitude, making it 10.6 times brighter than our burning sun.
Not only that, but it’s also massive compared to the sun.
Its radius is about twice that of our sun.
Altair is considered the nearest star in this constellation to our Earth.
It’s about 16.7 light-years away from us.
This star is a main-sequence dwarf star with high rotational velocity, hence its oblate shape and flattened polar areas.
Alpha Aquilae is part of the Summer Triangle asterism, composed of three stars that make the triangle’s vertices.
This asterism also includes Deneb from Cygnus and Vega from Lyra.
The name “Altair” is derived from the Arabic term “al-nasr al-ta’ir,” which translates to the flying eagle.
Aquila contains several deep-sky objects. It doesn’t contain any Messier objects, though.
It contains unique nebulae and star clusters, such as:
- Many planetary nebulae, such as NGC 6781, NGC 6778
- Glowing Eye Nebula (NGC 7651)
- Phantom Streak Nebula (NGC 6741)
- Open clusters, such as NGC 6709 and NGC 6755
- Globular clusters, such as NGC 6760
Aquila also contains an extragalactic object, which is the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall.
This might be the largest mass concentration of galaxies known at the current time.
Two meteor showers that seem to be from the Aquila constellation are June Aquilids and Epsilon Aquilids.
Unluckily, they’re not so bright, and you won’t be able to see them with the naked eye.
However, optical instruments can help you with that.
The Epsilon Aquilids usually occur on the days between 4-27 of May every year.
The best time to watch it is on the 17th. This is when the meteor shower hits its peak activity.
It was discovered that nine stars in Aquila host known exoplanets. Here are some examples:
- Fortitudo orbits Libertas
- Beirut orbits Phoenicia (HD 192263)
- Khomsa orbits Chechia
- Wadirum orbits Petra
- HD 183263 b
- COROT-8 b
Here you have it, some interesting Aquila constellation facts.
This constellation has been very much appreciated since ancient times, and we can see why now.
Now, what you need to do is to wait for August and look out of the window at 9 p.m.
Maybe you’ll have luck locating Aquila!
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