History of the Constellations

Stars and Constellations

Aquila

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Contents of this page: | Description | Skylore | Modern Culture | Origin and History | Asterisms | Special Stars | Submit new info... |

Images (at bottom of page): | Aquila Chart: (Figure 1) | Hyginus, 1482, page 4r: (Figure 2) | Kepler, 1606, page 000tp: (Figure 3) | Kepler, 1606, page plate: (Figure 4) | Bayer, 1661, page Q: (Figure 5) | Bayer, 1697, page F3r: (Figure 6) | Bayer, 1697, page F3v: (Figure 7) | Bayer, 1697, page F4r: (Figure 8) | Bayer, 1697, page F4v: (Figure 9) | Bode, 1801, page l: (Figure 10) | Aspin, 1825, page Delphinus: (Figure 11) | Images digitized by Hannah Magruder.

Constellation Data

Description

Between Cygnus and Sagittarius, with Altair (its brightest star) making the south end of the Summer Triangle (along with Deneb of Cygnus and Vega of Lyra). As the night sky changes, Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan swing slowly westward across the sky towards the horizon. The Eagle sets tail first, followed closely by the Swan, who dives beak first below the western horizon.

Skylore and Literature

Aquila was a messenger for Zeus (Jupiter), who rewarded his faithful friend with a place among the stars after years of service. Another story is told of how Aquila was rewarded with a place in the heavens for having brought from earth the handsome Ganymede to serve as cupbearer of the gods.

In Middle Earth, the constellation Soronume (Eagle of the West) may have referred to Aquila. Soronume was said to be in the west with outstretched wings. (Rachel Magruder.)

Modern Culture

Origin and History

Aquila is included in the ancient star catalogs of Eudoxos of Knidos, Aratos of Soli, and Ptolemy.

Asterisms

Summer Triangle

Special Stars

The bright star Altair (ALL-tare) lies in the constellation Aquila the Eagle, which was a servant of Zeus. Altair means "the flying one," and Altair flies around its axis once every 6 and a half hours. Astronomers calculate that because of this rapid rotation, it must be twice as wide at its equator as at its poles. Altair is one and a half times larger and 11 times brighter than our sun, and only 16 light years away.

Submit new info...

Many excellent websites provide a variety of information about constellations for amateur astronomers and telescope users (see sidebar links for a few of these). These constellation pages are not intended to duplicate those efforts, but are devoted to two aims: First, they are intended to assist the beginning skywatcher, including students in history of science survey courses, in becoming familiar with Basic Celestial Phenomena (BCP). Second, these pages are devoted to the history of the constellations and the history of astronomy. They are intended to serve as a repository for collaborative use and reference. Do you have additional historical information about the stars or constellation described on this page? Please submit additional information to kmagruder@ou.edu. Submissions will be attributed. Editors for historical information are Kerry Magruder, JoAnn Palmeri, Peter Barker, and Laura Gibbs.

Oklahoma History of Science exhibits: http://hos.ou.edu/exhibits/. Page revised 4/15/04

Bad links, misplaced images, or questions? Contact Kerry Magruder. Thank you.

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown. But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile." R. W. Emerson, Nature

Images

Figure 1 Figure 1 - Return to Text

Aql Chart
Figure 2 Figure 2 - Return to Text

Hyginus, 1482

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Kepler, 1606

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Kepler, 1606

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Bayer, 1661

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Bayer, 1697

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Bayer, 1697

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Bayer, 1697

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Figure 9 Figure 9 - Return to Text

Bayer, 1697

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Bode, 1801

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Aspin, 1825

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Exhibit credit: Kerry Magruder.

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These teaching resources provided by the History of Science Department at the University of Oklahoma.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries. Image Terms of Use.

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