continued from Starlit Sky: 20. Cygnus

Summer Triangle. Seen in the northern hemisphere in June to August spans three constellations, Cygnus, Aquila and Lyra. We learnt about Cygnus in the previous edition. Lets look for Aquila and Lyra today.

A little to the south of Cygnus will be a small straight line of 3 stars, with a very bright star in the middle. That is the Altair, the 12th brightest object in the night sky of the constellation of Aquila. It is also called Alpha Aquilae. Altair is called Shravana in the Indian Astronomical System. Altair is a star with a magnitude of 0.77. It is just 16.7 light years away and is also one of the most easily identified star in the sky.


Altair is the brightest star of the Aquila constellation. Aquila is called the Garuda Mandalam in the Indian Astronomical System. Aquila is a latin name for eagle. Garuda is the eagle vehicle of Lord Vishnu. Aquila is situated along the Milky Way, so a few deep sky objects can be seen in this constellation.

Let us now come to the constellation, Lyra. Lyra is a small constellation that lies to the west of Cygnus. It is called the Veena Mandalam in the Indian Astronomical System. The Greeks saw the collection of 5 or 6 stars as a lyre (a small stringed instrument similar to the harp) but the ancient Indians saw it as a veena (a stringed instrument similar to a lute). Lyra is the home of Ring Nebula, the best known planetary nebula.


Lyra has the 5th brightest object of the sky, after the Sun, the star Vega.Vega is called Abhijit in the Indian Astronomical System. Vega has a magnitude of 0.03. Vega was a pole star for the Earth about 12,000 BC and will again be a pole star around the year 13,725. (How far that date seems now! How will the world be then, I wonder?)

Deneb of Cygnus, Altair of Aquila, and Vega of Lyra form the Summer Triangle of the northern sky. It is one of the most beautiful sight on a clear night.

There is a faint star in Lyra called the Epsilon Lyrae. The speciality of this star is that it is a double double star. With naked eye and with really excellent eyesight, we can see that this star is a binary. But with binoculars, we can see that each of the stars in the binary is a binary star. That means that this is not just a single star but two sets of binary stars orbiting each other. That is why it is called a “Double Double”.

Random Gyaan:

In the Indian Mythology, Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe is visualised as having 4 heads. Each head depicts a veda (there are 4 vedas). Lord Brahma’s consort is Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. She is depicted with a musical instrument Veena. Both Lord Brahma and Goddess Saraswati ride the swan or Hamsa.

Do you see where I am going with this narrative? 

Yes, the Hamsa Mandalam (Cygnus) is the vehicle of Lord Brahma (Epsilon Lyrae, with its double double are the 4 faces of the lord) and Veena Mandalam depicts the Goddess Saraswati. 

Ties up nicely, don’t you think so? 🙂


to be continued……