Represented as a swan flying down the Milky Way, its wings outstretched. It was first catalogued by Ptolemy in the 2nd century. The body and bill form a cross.
This is a favorite constellation to name a star for couples because the swan is an animal that mates for life. Cygnus is located in the heart of the Summer Milky Way.
Cygnus is also known as the Northern Cross because of its configuration. Its brightest star is Deneb, which is part of the Summer Triangle with Vega and Altair. This constellation is next to Lyra and below Cepheus and is easy to locate in the summer sky.
The Veil Nebula and the North American Nebula are both visible with binoculars. A meteor shower, Cygnids, is seen from August 10th to August 20th each year.
The nearest constellations to Cygnus are Cepheus, Draco, Lacerta, Lyra, Pegasus and Vulpecula.
Right Ascension: 08:31
Diameter (°): 19
Area (square °): 804
Opposition: Jul 28
Size Rank: 16th
Brightness Rank: 11st
Major or notable stars in Cygnus
Deneb – α Cygni (Alpha Cygni)
Sadr – γ Cygni (Gamma Cygni)
Aljanah – ε Cygni (Epsilon Cygni)
Fawaris – δ Cygni (Delta Cygni)
Albireo – β Cygni (Beta Cygni)
ζ Cygni (Zeta Cygni)
τ Cygni (Tau Cygni)
κ Cygni (Kappa Cygni)
η Cygni (Eta Cygni)
π Cygni (Pi Cygni)
Bessel’s Star (Piazzi’s Falling Star) – 61 Cygni
34 Cygni (P Cygni)
θ Cygni (Theta Cygni)
Ruchba – ω Cygni (Omega Cygni)
Deep Sky Objects in Cygnus
Messier 29 (M29) – NGC 6913
Messier 39 (M39) – NGC 7092
Fireworks Galaxy – NGC 6946 (Arp 29)
North America Nebula – NGC 7000 (Caldwell 20)
Pelican Nebula – IC 5070 and IC 5067
Sadr Region – IC 1318
Crescent Nebula – NGC 6888 (Caldwell 27, Sharpless 105)
Cygnus Loop (Sharpless 103)
Veil Nebula – NGC 6960, NGC 6992, NGC 6995, NGC 6974, NGC 6979 (IC 1340)
Mythology of the Constellation Cygnus
Of all the feathered race, there is probably no bird more beautiful and majestic. Almost every noted poet has so honored the swan. In virtually all ages and all countries where taste and elegance have been cultivated, the swan has been considered the emblem of poetical dignity, purity, and grace.
The ancients consecrated it to Apollo and the Muses and believed that the bird foretold its own end and sang most sweetly at the approach of its death. To this day we relate sad endings to the term, “A Swan Song.”
As often is the case, mythologists have different accounts of the constellation’s origin. One story says it’s the celebrated musician, Orpheus, who was murdered by a cruel priestess of Bacchus. At his death, he was changed into a swan and placed near his harp in the heavens. Some refer to Cygnus as the pet swan of Queen Cassiopeia.
Another version says it is the swan into which Jupiter transformed himself while deceiving Leda, wife of the King of Sparta. The results of these liaisons were the twin, Pollux, and the lovely Helen of Troy. Another story says it was Cionus, a son of Neptune, who was so completely invulnerable that neither javelins nor arrows nor the blows of mighty Achilles in furious combat could touch him.
“Headlong he leaps from off his lofty car,
And in close fight on foot renews the war;
But on his flesh nor wound nor blood is seen,
The Sword itself is blunted on the skin.”
When Achilles saw that his darts and blows were getting him nowhere, he immediately threw Cionus on the ground and smothered him. While he was attempting to rip off his armor, Cionus was suddenly changed into a swan.
According to Ovid, the constellation took its name from Cycnus, a friend of Phaeton, who deeply lamented the untimely fate of that youth and was turned into a swan by Zeus. Phaeton’s sisters mourned and wept so much that Zeus turned them into weeping willow trees to line the banks of Eridanus.