Space for the Earthbound - A Journey Through the Universe

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Cygnus (Swan in the Sky)

The Southern Hemisphere has the Southern Cross. In the Northern Hemisphere we have the Northern Cross, or Cygnus, the Swan. Cygnus is actually more distinctive and quite a bit larger than the Southern Cross.

Deneb, the brightest star in the constellation, is at the tail of Cygnus. Deneb, a super-giant, is the most distant of all the first-magnitude stars. Albireo is at the head of Cygnus. Albireo is actually two stars that give off a distinctive blue and amber glow. It is easy to see the graceful, long neck and wings stretched out in flight while looking up at Cygnus.

Cygnus is home to many nebulae. The Veil Nebula is a breathtakingly light, wispy nebula; unlike planetary nebular that are circular in shape, the Veil Nebula spreads so thin that stars can be seen through it. The North American Nebula, complete with the shape of the Gulf of Mexico, is near Deneb.

Zeus is well-known for taking many shapes in his seductions. Disguised as a swan, Zeus seduced Leda, the wife of King Tyndareus. Out of this union came Clytemnestra and her sister Helen of Troy, along with Castor and Pollux. As Leda had lain with both her husband and Zeus, there will always be questions regarding the fatherhood of the offspring.

Many stories abound about the swan and Cygnus remains an enigma, free to roam the night sky.

Author Resource: Written by Starr Hendon


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