Lore of the Constellations: Cygnus the Swan

Hello again and welcome back to another Lore of the Constellations.  If you’ve been following these segments you’ll know that the last few videos have been on Aquila the Eagle and Lyra the Harp.  We’re rounding out the three constellations that make up the asterism known as the Summer Triangle now with Cygnus the Swan.

So, how did we get a swan in the sky and why is it so important to be honored with its own section in space?

Well, there are several myths associated with the Cygnus constellation, the most famous one being a story which involves the Greek mythological character Leda who was the Queen of Sparta.

With many Greek myths, Zeus plays a major part in this story.  Zeus would often disguise himself as an animal in order to win affection over certain people of interest.  This story is no different since Zeus had his eye on Leda for quite some time.

Zeus took his chance with Leda one day when she was being attacked by an Eagle.  He disguised himself as a swan and took the queen under his wings.  From this, Leda produced two eggs, each with a set of twins.  Each set had one sibling fathered by Zeus, while the other was fathered by the King of Sparta.  From one egg the brothers Castor and Pollux emerged, and from the other the twin sisters Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra were born.

To celebrate this birth, Zeus placed the swan amongst the stars.  And that is how we know of Cygnus the Swan.

You can find Cygnus high in the northern sky.  It’s name “Cygnus” is Latin for Swan, actually.

You can find some interesting deep sky objects in this constellation such as the Fireworks Galaxy, the Pelican Nebula, the Crescent Nebula, and the North American Nebula that we’re going to visit right now….

This large emission nebula is located in the vicinity of Cygnus’s bright star Deneb.  Its shape bears a striking resemblance to the North American continent.

Speaking of Deneb, the brightest star in Cygnus, it is a class A supergiant located some 1550 light-years away from Earth.  It’s the 19th brightest star in our night sky and is 19 times more massive than our sun.

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