Summer Constellations

The summer sky presents us with the opportunity to observe many interesting summer constellations. The Summer Triangle is the most famous asterism (which is not a constellation!). It connects the stars Vega (constellation Lyra), Deneb (Cygnus – “the swan”) and Altair (Aquila – “the eagle”). All three stars are very bright with apparent magnitudes ~0-1.


The summer constellation Lyra is one of the first constellations listed by the ancient astronomer Ptolemy. Vega, part of Lyra, is one of the brightest stars in the sky. The myth about Lyra is connected with the famous musician Orpheus, who was killed. After his death he and his lyre were thrown into the river. Zeus, who was enchanted by his music, placed his lyre in the sky next to the swan, Cygnus.



Deneb means “tail” in Arabic and that is exactly where the star is located in the constellation. There are many myths about this graceful bird. Some say that Orpheus was transformed into it after his death next to his lyre. Another, that it represents the swan that Zeus transformed into, to seduce Leda. Or that it is Cycnus, who died in grief for his friend Phaethon who was trying to drive his father’s Sun-chariot.


The brightest star in this constellation is Altair – the Arabic word for eagle. The myth of Aquila is associated with the eagle, which carried Zeus thunderbolts. Zeus also ordered it to carry Ganymede to Mount Olympus.


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