International Star Registry

All Constellations

Cygnus - Swan

Represented as a swan flying down the Milky Way, its wings outstretched. The body and bill form a cross.

Cygnus is also known as the Northern Cross because of its configuration. It’s 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.

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.

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.”
Right Ascension 08:31
Diameter (°)19
Area (square °)804
Opposition Jul 28
Size Rank 16th
Brightness Rank 11st