The American Association of Amateur Astronomers
The Constellation Aquila - The
Mythology: Aquila - The Eagle
Aquila, The Eagle, was the divine bird of Zeus and bearer of his sacred thunder. Aquila began servicing the King of the Gods as Zeus was battling with his father, Cronus, to gain control of the universe. During this fierce combat Aquila faithfully provided his master with plentiful food, drink, and weapons, enabling Zeus to become victorious in his quest for supreme power. Aquila
continued to faithfully attend to his lord's wants and needs, and when Zeus enlisted the young Trojan boy, Ganymede, the powerful eagle descended to gather him. Aquila then Carried Ganymede through the air to Mount Olympus, where he became the cup-bearer of the gods. Zeus was so pleased with Aquila's actions that he placed The Eagle among the stars to eternally soar through the sky.
The four constellations of Aquila, Aquarius, Capricornus,
and Delphinus lie relatively close to each other in a region of the
sky which is almost devoid of bright showpiece deep sky objects. Aquarius and Capricornus lie away from the main
body of the Milky Way, and mostly contain faint galaxies with only a few star clusters and nebulae. Aquila and
Delphinus, on the other hand, lie right along the Milky Way and contain some fine examples of planetary and dark
nebulae. Even though there are only four Messier objects in this entire region, there are still enough deep sky
targets to keep an astronomer busy on a summer night.
NGC 6781 - This fine planetary nebula is relatively bright and large, being about 2' in diameter. This grey
puffball of light is
reminiscent of the Owl Nebula in Ursa Major. The southern portion of the nebula is slightly brighter than the northern
portion, and I saw no central star.
B143-4 - This is a classic example of a dark nebula. It is relatively easily seen in binoculars, lying just
west of the star
Gamma Aquilae, which is near the bright star Altair. The nebula is over a degree in size, and is seen as an "E"
which is devoid of stars.
Article © Copyright Rick Raasch
Photos © Copyright Edward P. Flaspoehler, Jr.
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