The Constellation Cygnus, the Swan
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Cygnus

Cygnus, the Swan, is also known as the Northern Cross because of its shape. The tail of the swan is marked by the bright star Deneb, Arabic for "tail". Three fainter stars cross the line between Deneb and the head of the swan, Albireo. Cygnus flies southward along the summer Milky Way, and into the Summer Triangle.

Deneb is a bright, blue supergiant star, very young as stars go. Albireo, the bill of the swan, is actually two stars which show a spectacular amber and blue contrast. Cygnus is also sprinkled with a variety of nebulae, including the North American Nebula and the Veil Nebula.

The identity of Cygnus is uncertain. He could be Zeus in the guise in which he seduced Leda, the mother of Helen of Troy. In one myth, Cygnus is a friend of Phaethon, the son of Apollo, the sun god. Phaethon fell into the river Eridanus, trying to drive the sun-gods chariot. Cygnus dove repeatedly into the water to search for Phaethon. Out of pity, Zeus turned the boy into a swan.

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