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Aquila is a constellation. Its name is Latin for 'eagle' and it is commonly represented as such. It lies roughly at the celestial equator. The alpha star, Altair, is a vertex of the Summer Triangle asterism.


Aquila was one of the 48 constellations described by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. It had been earlier mentioned by Eudoxus in the 4th century BC and Aratus in the 3rd century BC. It is now one of the 88 constellations defined by the International Astronomical Union. The constellation was also known as Vultur volans (the flying vulture) to the Romans, not to be confused with Vultur cadens which was their name for Lyra.

Ptolemy catalogued nineteen stars jointly in this constellation and in the now obsolete constellation of Antinous, which was named in the reign of the emperor Hadrian (AD 117–138), but sometimes erroneously attributed to Tycho Brahe, who catalogued twelve stars in Aquila and seven in Antinous. Hevelius determined twenty-three stars in the first, and nineteen in the second.

Named Stars

Bayer designation Name Origin Meaning
           α Altair Arabic the bird
           β Alshain Arabic the (peregrine) falcon
           γ Tarazed Persian the beam of the scale
           ε Deneb el Okab Arabic the tail of the falcon
           ζ Deneb el Okab Arabic the tail of the falcon
           η Bezek Hebrew lightning
           θ Tseen Foo Mandarin the heavenly raft(er)
           ι Al Thalimain Arabic the two ostriches
           λ Al Thalimain Arabic the two ostriches

Notable features


See also: List of stars in Aquila
Aquila, which lies in the Milky Way, contains many rich starfields.
  • α Aql (Altair): this multiple star system (3 components) has 0.77m and is of spectral type A7 V. It has a parallax of 0.23", and consequently is about eight times as bright as the Sun.
  • β Aql (Alshain): its spectral type is G8 IV and it shines with an apparent brightness of 3.71m. Like Altair, it too is a multiple star system with three components.
  • γ Aql (Tarazed): spectral type K3 II; 2.72m
  • η Aql: This short-period variable star is one of the brightest classical Cepheids; its brightness varies between 3.48 mag and 4.39 mag every 7.177 days.
  • 15 Aql: This double star is a yellow K star of 5.4 mag accompanied by a 7th mag star; it can easily be observed with small telescopes.
  • ρ Aql moved across the border into neighboring Delphinus in 1992


Two major novae have been observed in Aquila; the first one was in 389 BC and was recorded to be as bright as Venus, the other (Nova Aquilae 1918) briefly shone brighter than Altair, the brightest star in Aquila.

Deep-sky objects

Three interesting planetary nebulae lie in Aquila: More deep-sky objects:


NASA's Pioneer 11 mission, which flew by Jupiter and Saturn in the 1970s will pass near one of the stars in the constellation of Aquila in about four million years.


The constellation resembles a wide winged, soaring, short necked, bird, which the ancients identified as an eagle.[35669].

In classical Greek mythology, Aquila was identified as the eagle which carried the thunderbolts of Zeus and was sent by him to carry the shepherd boy Ganymede, whom he desired, to Mount Olympusmarker; the constellation of Aquarius is sometimes identified with Ganymede.

In the Chinese love story of Qi Xi, Niu Lang (Altair) and his two children (β and γ Aquilae) are separated forever from their wife and mother Zhi Nu (Vega) who is on the far side of the river, the Milky Way.

In Hinduism, the constellation Aquila is identified with the half eagle, half human deity, Garuda.


  • Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion (2007). Stars and Planets Guide, Collins, London. ISBN 978-0007251209. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 978-0691135564.

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