The Constellation Aquila, the Eagle
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Aquila, the celestial eagle, is one of the three constellations which
have bright stars forming the Summer Triangle. A nearly perfectly
straight line of three stars symbolizes part of the wings. The center
and brightest of these three stars is Altair
. The tips of the wings
extend further to the southeast and northwest. The head of the eagle
stretches off to the southwest.
A challenging open cluster can be found in Aquila, a few degrees
southwest of the northernmost wingtip of the eagle. The stars in this
cluster are so faint that they cannot be resolved with binoculars, but
instead appear as only a light smudge. Two dark nebulae form a shape
known as "Fish on the Platter". They are located about 1.5 degrees
west of the star just north of Altair.
To the ancient Greeks, Aquila was the servant of Zeus who held the
god's thunderbolts and performed errands for him. He may also be the
great eagle who devours Prometheus' liver as punishment for giving
fire to humans. The line of three stars which includes Altair is
revered by Indians as the footprints of the god Vishnu. Some Asian
traditions see the bright star Vega as the Weaving-Princess star
who marries a shephard, the star Altair.
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