Constellation Cygnus

Identifying the constellations can be challenging to say the least for amateur stargazers. With all the hundreds, even thousands of stars, it can be hard to identify the relative few that make up the constellations that are known today.

The constellation Cygnus is among the easier constellations to find. Cygnus sits directly along the Milky Way, hence the name “Cygnus the swan” as it appears to be a swan sitting on a river, the Milky Way. Simply follow the river of the Milky Way. Look for a large arrow along the Milky Way consisting of roughly 7 stars, with the tip of the arrow facing almost North along the Milky Way.

Cygnus sits roughly 45 degrees away from the North Star, Polaris. So if you can manage to find the Milky Way, which requires fairly dark skies with little light pollution, you should have no trouble spotting the brightest star of Cygnus, which is called Deneb. Deneb is one of very few quite bright stars along the Milky Way itself. Deneb appears as a magnitude 1, blue/white star. Quite easy to see under most any conditions. From Deneb follow the “Milky Way” South until you find the 3rd magnitude star called Albireo. From Albireo, head North again and you will find 3 relatively bright stars in an almost straight line between Deneb and Albireo. These 5 stars from the central body, or the central “shaft” if you will, of the Swan or the Northern Cross, as it is also known.

From this central section, you will find 2 or 3 more stars off to the side of the shaft, depending whether you are looking at it as the arrow, the cross or the swan. This completes the constellation Cygnus. It is a very large, spread out constellation but certainly among the easiest to find. With saying that it sits in a position that makes it an ideal Summertime constellation. Cygnus is in the middle of the Milky Way as seen from Earth. There are many deep sky objects, multiple star systems and rich star fields to see in and around this gem of a constellation.

It is also host to one of the most beautiful and easy to find double star systems in the whole of the night sky. One is bright blue and the other is a very distinct orange colour, easily seen by almost any telescope.

Deneb is also one of the stars in the “Summer Triangle”, a group of three fairly bright stars that are easily seen from the northern hemisphere in the summer months. These three stars mark a very rich hunting ground for any astronomy buff.