Together with the constellationsLyraandAquila, the Swan (lat. Cygnus) forms the famous summer triangle, a combination of the brightest stars (Wega, Altair and Deneb) of the three most striking constellations of the summer and autumn skies. With an area of 804 square degrees, Cygnus extends in the northern hemisphere. Because of its appearance, it is often referred to as the "Northern Cross", a counterpart toCrux. It is one of the 48 constellations of antiquity.
How to spot Cygnus
The constellation represents a flying swan with outstretched wings. The brightest star, Deneb, symbolizes the tail feathers. The constellation is located south ofCepheusandDraco, west ofLacerta, north ofVulpeculaand east of Lyra. In Cygnus you may spot the bright band of theMilky Way, which is why many special stars and foggy objects can be seen here.
The mystical bird in the night sky caused many different versions of the origin of the constellation.
In the best-known story, the swan is Zeus, who philandered young women in the form of the beautiful and gentle animal. That way he seduced the unsuspecting Nemesis, who received and cared for the supposedly hunted swan. When she gave birth to a white egg nine months after the incident, she hid it ashamed in the woods. There a shepherd found it and brought it to Leda, Queen of Sparta. She made it hatch and after some time Helena was brought to life, which became the epitome of beauty in ancient times and the trigger of the Trojan War.
Also Zeus seduced the Queen of Sparta herself in the wedding night with the King Tyndareos, so that the brothersCastor and Pulloxwere conceived.
Another version is about Cygnus, a friend of the son of the Sun God Helios. AsEridanusfell burning into the river Cygnus swam to help him and searched tirelessly for his friend. Zeus was so touched that he turned him into a swan and set him into the sky as an example for loyalty and friendship.