The Aquila Constellation

The Aquila Constellation.

Aquila NGCs Region 1

Aquila is a constellation on the celestial equator. Its name is Latin for ‘eagle’ and it represents the bird who carried Zeus’ thunderbolts in Greco-Roman mythology. Aquila was one of the 48 constellations described by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. It had been earlier mentioned by Eudoxus in the 4th century BC and Aratus in the 3rd century BC. Aquila is also associated with the eagle who kidnapped Ganymede, a son of one of the kings of Troy (associated with Aquarius), to Mount Olympus to serve as cup-bearer to the gods. The Aquila Constellation is one of the 88 constellations that is recognised today by the International Astronomical Union. It belongs to the Hercules family of constellations, which include Ara, Centaurus, Corona Australis, Corvus, Crater, Crux, Cygnus, Hercules, Hydra, Lupus, Lyra, Ophiuchus, Sagitta, Scutum, Serpens Caput, Serpens Cauda, Sextans, Triangulum Australe, and Vulpecula. The constellation is best seen in the northern summer, as it is located along the Milky Way. The

Aquila NGCs Region2

best viewing month will be September at right ascension 19h 41m and declination 3 degrees 22’.


Its brightest star, Altair, is one vertex of the Summer Triangle asterism, at a distance of 17 light-years from Earth. Its name comes from the Arabic phrase “al-nasr al-tair,” meaning “the flying eagle.” Altair has a magnitude of 0.76. β Aql (Alshain) is a yellow-hued star of magnitude 3.7, 45 light-years from Earth. Its name comes from the Arabic phrase “shahin-i tarazu”, meaning “the balance.” γ Aql (Tarazed) is an orange-hued giant star of magnitude 2.7, 460 light-years from Earth. Its name, like that of Alshain, comes from the Arabic for “the balance,” “shahin-i tarazu.”

Two major novae have been observed in Aquila: the first one was in 389 BC and was recorded as being as bright as Venus; the other (Nova Aquilae 1918) briefly shone brighter than Altair.

Three interesting planetary nebulae lie in Aquila: NGC 6804 shows a small but bright ring, NGC 6781 which bears some resemblance with the Owl Nebula in Ursa Major, and NGC 6751: also known as the Glowing Eye, a planetary nebula. Other deep sky objects are NGC 6709, a loose open cluster containing approximately 40 stars, which range in magnitude from 9 to 11. It is approximately 3000 light-years from Earth. NGC 6709 appears in a rich Milky Way star field and is classified as a Shapley class d and Trumpler class III 2 m cluster. These designations mean that it does not have many stars, is loose, does not show greater concentration at the center, and has a moderate range of star magnitudes. NGC 6755: an open cluster of 7.5 m; it is made up of about a dozen stars with magnitudes 12 through 13, and NGC 6760: a globular cluster of 9.1m.

Credits: Universe Today, Wikipedia.