67 Astounding Aquila Constellation Facts For Space Lovers

Martha Martins
Oct 24, 2023 By Martha Martins
Originally Published on Mar 23, 2022
The Aquila constellation contains the 12th-brightest star in the sky, Altair. Read on for more Aquila constellation facts.

The Aquila constellation is one of 88 constellations officially recognized by the International Astronomical Union.

It is located in the Northern Hemisphere and contains many bright stars. The constellation's name in Latin means 'eagle'.

The Aquila constellation was first cataloged by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the second century AD. This constellation situated on the celestial equator was found along with Antinous, which is now an obsolete constellation.

The Babylonian Eagle (MUL.A.MUSHEN) is likely to have been the inspiration for the Greek Aquila, which is likewise in the same region as the Greek constellation. The Aquila constellation has two meteor showers: June Aquilids and Epsilon Aquilids.

This constellation is not only significant in Greek and Roman mythologies, but also in several other cultures. Each culture interprets the constellation in unique ways. 

Read on to explore more fascinating facts about the Aquila constellation and its brightest star below.

The Structure Of The Aquila Constellation

Each constellation, comprising several stars, has a distinctive formation and alignment that sets it apart from others. The formation and alignment of the Aquila constellation and related facts are mentioned as follows.

The shape of the Aquila constellation resembles a flying eagle: this constellation has stars in an alignment that appears as the head and the wings of an eagle.

The supposed head of the eagle consists of a straight line of three stars, one of which is the brightest star in the entire Aquila constellation.

The other stars in the constellation make up the neck and the wingspan of the eagle.

This constellation is easily recognizable as it spans 652 degrees squared of the sky.

This eagle star alignment is bordered by the constellations of Capricornus, Hercules, Aquarius, Delphinus, Sagitta, Scutum, Ophiuchus, as well as Serpens Cauda.

The wings' tips extend to the south-east and north-west while the eagle's head extends to the south-west.

The Significance Of The Aquila Constellation

Even though it isn't a zodiac constellation, the Aquila constellation holds significance in many cultures. Some amazing facts about the significance of the Aquila constellation are listed as follows.

The constellation is thought to have been named by the ancient Romans, who associated it with their god, Jupiter (the king of the gods), who would sometimes be depicted as an eagle carrying a thunderbolt.

According to Greek mythology, the constellation is associated with Zeus, the god who had an eagle that carried thunderbolts.

One Greek legend states that Zeus dispatched Aquila to carry the young Trojan boy, Ganymede, to Olympus to be the gods' cupbearer.

The neighboring constellation of Aquarius is said to represent Ganymede.

In another legend, the eagle is seen protecting the arrow of Eros (represented by Sagitta), which struck Zeus and made him love-struck.

There is also a legend that talks about Aphrodite transforming into Aquila to pursue Zeus in swan form.

According to this story, Zeus put up the images of the swan and the eagle among the stars to commemorate the event.

The constellation is also linked to the legend of Hercules slaying an eagle while trying to rescue Prometheus from its claws.

In Hindu mythology, the Aquila constellation identifies with the deity Garuda, which is half human and half eagle.

In the mythology of ancient Egypt, there is a possibility that Aquila was the falcon of Horus.

Aquila represents the eagle that accompanied Jupiter or Zeus.

Stars In The Aquila Constellation

There are about eight to 10 main stars in the Aquila constellation, with other smaller stars accompanying them. Some of the important stars of this constellation are mentioned as follows.

The brightest star in Aquila is Altair, which is also the 12th-brightest star in the sky.

The name of the star is taken from the Arabic phrase 'an-Nasr at-ta'ir,' which means 'the flying eagle'.

This bright star forms a triangle with Deneb and Vega that is sometimes referred to as the Summer Triangle.

Aquila is a hydrogen-fusing dwarf star (A-type main-sequence star) that has three visual companions.

Altair is one of the stars that are nearest to Earth, about 16.8 light-years away, and can be seen with the naked eye.

Due to its rapid rotational cycle, Altair does not have a completely spherical shape; it is instead flattened at both poles.

The second-brightest star in Aquila is Tarazed, derived from a Persian (Iranian) phrase that means 'the beam of the scale'.

It is a bright giant of the class K category (spectral class K3) located 461 light-years from Earth.

Tarazed is a recognized source of X-rays and, as it is around 100 million years of age, the star is already in the process of burning helium into carbon form at its core.

Alshain, also known as Beta Aquilae, is another important star of Aquila.

It is Aquila's seventh-brightest star which is situated around 44.7 light-years from Earth.

Alshain is considered to be a class G subgiant whose name means 'the (peregrine) falcon'.

Deneb el Okab is also known as Epsilon Aquilae and is part of the Aquila constellation.

It is a triple-star system situated 154 light-years away.

The name of the triple-star system is derived from an Arabic phrase whose meaning is 'tail of the eagle'.

An orange-hued giant star of K-type, known as Barium star, comprises Epsilon Aquilae's brightest component.

Deneb el Okab is also the name of Zeta Aquilae.

In order to differentiate between the two stars, Epsilon Aquilae is known as Deneb el Okab Borealis and Zeta Aquilae is called Deneb el Okab Australis, based on their relative positions.

Zeta Aquilae is also a triple-star system that is situated 83.2 light-years away from Earth.

The primary star of this system is an A-type main sequence dwarf of white color.

Another important star of the Aquila constellation is Bezek, also called Eta Aquilae.

A yellow-white supergiant, Eta Aquilae is about 1,200 light-years from Earth.

It is a Cepheid variable star that is easily recognized by an unaided eye.

'Bezek' is derived from a Hebrew phrase which means 'lightning'.

Theta Aquilae in the Aquila constellation is a spectroscopic binary star that is situated around 287 light-years away.

Another name for this star is Tseen Foo which is derived from 'tianfu', a Mandarin word that means 'the heavenly rafter' as well as 'drumsticks'.

The asterism that Theta Aquilae forms with Eta Aquilae, 58 Aquilae, and 62 Aquilae is called the 'Celestial Drumsticks' by the Chinese.

Iota Aquilae and Lambda Aquilae are both stars in the Aquila constellation with the same name, Al Thalimain.

While Iota Aquilae is a B-type star, Lambda Aquilae is a B-type main sequence dwarf; both stars have the same blue-white color.

Al Thalimain is a name derived from an Arabic word meaning 'the two ostriches'.

In order to differentiate between the two stars, Lambda Aquilae is called Al Thalimain Prior.

An orange giant in Aquila is 15 Aquilae which can be easily seen through small telescopes.

Rho Aquila, an A-type main-sequence dwarf of white color, was part of Aquila until 1992, when it drifted far off the border into Delphinus.

Deep-Sky Objects In The Aquila Constellation

While the Aquila constellation does not consist of Messier objects, it does contain some deep-sky objects. Some of these deep-sky objects within the constellation are listed below.

A planetary nebula whose first discovery was made by Edward Charles Pickering (an American astronomer) in 1882 is found within the Aquila constellation.

This planetary nebula was named Phantom Streak Nebula, also known as NGC 6741, for observation purposes.

Being small in size, Phantom Streak Nebula is located about 7,000 light-years away.

An open-star cluster, NGC 6709, is situated close to Zeta Aquilae in the south-west direction.

This open star cluster, discovered in 1828 by William Herschel, has a loose diamond-like shape.

NGC 6709 can be easily determined through small telescopes.

Barnard's E-Nebula, or just E-Nebula, is also found within this constellation.

The E-Nebula consists of Barnard 142 and 143, which are dark nebulae.

It is located in the west direction of Tarazed and is about 2,000 light-years away from Earth.

Another planetary nebula found in Aquila is NGC 6781, which slightly resembles Owl Nebula (Messier 97), which is part of the Ursa Major constellation.

The discovery of this nebula was made by William Herschel in July 1788.

NGC 6803 and 6804 are two planetary nebulae situated very close to each other.

NGC 6803 was discovered in 1882 by Edward Charles Pickering, while NGC 6804 was discovered in 1791 by William Herschel.

Glowing Eye Nebula is the name given to the planetary nebula NGC 6751.

The 10th-anniversary commemoration of the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit was celebrated by the selection of an image of the Glowing Eye Nebula.

The approximate distance of this nebula from Earth is 6,500 light-years. It can be seen around Lambda Aquilae on the south side.

NGC 6760, seen within the Aquila constellation, is a globular cluster situated about 24,100 light-years from Earth.

The discovery of this globular cluster was made by John Russell Hind in 1845, who had cataloged it as GC 4473.

The present name was later given by John Louis Emil Dreyer.

NGC 6778, which is also known as NGC 6785, is also a planetary nebula found within the Aquila constellation.

This bipolar nebula has an equatorial ring which is highly disrupted.

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Written by Martha Martins

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha Martins picture

Martha MartinsBachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha is a full-time creative writer, content strategist, and aspiring screenwriter who communicates complex thoughts and ideas effectively. She has completed her Bachelor's in Linguistics from Nasarawa State University. As an enthusiast of public relations and communication, Martha is well-prepared to substantially impact your organization as your next content writer and strategist. Her dedication to her craft and commitment to delivering high-quality work enables her to create compelling content that resonates with audiences.

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