Cygnus The Swan Constellation Seduces Across Ancient Greek, Hindu, and Chinese Mythologies

Symbolism: Cygnus The Swan


Cygnus Constellation From SkySafari App

Mythology: In one of several Greek myths, the god Zeus disguises himself as a swan, then seduces Leda, the Spartan king Tyndareus’s wife. She gave birth to two sets of twins, the immortal Pollux and Helen, who were fathered by Zeus and the mortal Castor and Clytemnestra, who were fathered by Tyndareus. Castor and Pollux are represented by the zodiac constellation Gemini.

In Hinduism, the period of time (or Muhurta) between 4:24 AM to 5:12 AM is called the Brahmamuhurtha, which means “the moment of the Universe”; the star system in correlation is the Cygnus constellation. This is believed to be a highly auspicious time to meditate, do any task, or start the day.

In a Chinese myth, the Goddess of Heaven discovers that Niu Lang and Zhi Nu are lovers. Zhi Nu is a fairy, and is therefore not allowed to be with a mortal man. The Goddess creates a river (the Milky Way) in the sky to keep the lovers separated. Once a year on Chinese Valentines Day, all the magpies in the world assemble to help the lovers be together by forming an enormous bridge over the wide river. The constellation Cygnus represents the magpie bridge in this story.

When is it visible? Cygnus the swan is a distinctive cross-shaped constellation best seen during the summer and fall months around September.

How to find it? The constellation is very easy to identify because is it dominated by a large cross-shaped asterism known as the Northern Cross. The bright star Deneb marks the tail of the celestial swan and the top of the Northern Cross. The star is also one of the vertices of the Summer Triangle.

Cygnus is surrounded by Cepheus to the north and east, Draco to the north and west, Lyra to the west, Vulpecula to the south, Pegasus to the southeast and Lacerta to the east. 

History:  Cygnus was first catalogued the by Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century.

According to ancient Chinese astronomy and astrology, the modern constellation Cygnus is located within the northern quadrant of the sky, which is symbolized as the Black Tortoise of the North (北方玄武, Běi Fāng Xuán Wǔ).

Amateur astronomers have made some notable Cygnus discoveries. The “Soap bubble nebula” was discovered on a digital image by Dave Jurasevich in 2007. In 2011, Austrian amateur Matthias Kronberger discovered a planetary nebula (Kronberger 61, now nicknamed “The Soccer Ball”) on old survey photos, confirmed recently in images by the Gemini Observatory.  Only six of the stars in Cygnus have been named by the International Astronomical Union, which leaves the rest of the stars available for you to name at Name a Star!

Why is naming a star with Name a Star a unique gift idea?

Why is naming a star with Name a Star a unique gift idea? Name a star provides the opportunity to name a real star in the sky that currently only has a catalog number. You then customize the gift to honor the recipient on the special occasion. The most popular customization is for you to create a short tribute or message that is printed on the Certificate of Registration. These can be funny, serious, or sad depending on the situation. You can use one of the sample tributes or create your own unique tribute.

Let’s look at some of the creative ideas our amazing customers have come up with to add meaning to their unique gift.


Looking_Up_To_The_StarsOne of our favorite birthday messages:

“You Light Up Our Family Like This Star Lights The Sky, Happy Birthday!”


How about a romantic message for that special someone in your life?

“Like The Stars, My Love For You Is Burning And Endless”


Customers love to choose Name a Star for Anniversaries.

“Now You Can Feel Our Love With Each Glance At The Night Sky”

“Unlike Flowers, My Love For You Will Never Fade Away”


Congratulate a new couple with long-lasting, personalized wedding gift.

“Best Wishes For A Long And Happy Life Together”

“Congratulations! May Your Happiness Be As Eternal As Your Star”


Many businesses have used Name a Star’s services to recognize star employees or thank their valued customers. Here are a few sample tributes for a business award.

“Thank You For Helping Us Reach For The Stars”

“Climb High, Climb Far, Your Goal The Sky, Your Aim The Stars”

“A Sparkling Performance Deserves A Sparkling Star”


You can dedicate a memorial star to a friend or loved one who has passed away.

“Every Time You Get Lonely, You Can Look Up And Know Your Dad Is Always There”


As you can see from these sample tributes, naming a star can be very meaningful and specific to the person receiving their unique Name a Star gift.

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Constellation Aquila The Eagle Soars Thru Romantic Stories Of Multiple Cultures

Symbolism: Aquila the Eagle


Altair, in the constellation Aquila the Eagle, is one of 3 stars in the Summer Triangle. Photo Earth & Sky

Mythology: Aquila represents the eagle, which held Zeus’s/Jupiter’s thunderbolts in Greco-Roman mythology. Aquila is also associated with the eagle that kidnapped Ganymede, a son of one of the kings of Troy (associated with Aquarius), to Mount Olympus to serve as cup-bearer to the gods.

In another story, the eagle is found guarding the arrow of Eros (represented by the constellation Sagitta), which hit Zeus and made him love-struck. In yet another myth, Aquila represents Aphrodite disguised as an eagle, pretending to pursue Zeus in the form of a swan, so that Zeus’ love interest, the goddess Nemesis, would give him shelter. In the story, Zeus later placed the images of the eagle and the swan among the stars to commemorate the event.

The name of the brightest star in the constellation, Altair, is derived from the Arabic al-nasr al-ta’ir, which means “flying eagle” or “vulture.” Ptolemy called the star Aetus, which is Latin for “eagle.” Similarly, both Babylonians and Sumerians called Altair “the eagle star.”

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

In Japan Vega is sometimes called Tanabata (or Orihime), a celestial princess or goddess, who falls in love with a mortal, Kengyu (or Hikoboshi), represented by the star Altair.

When is it visible? The constellation Aquila, the eagle, is visible in the northern hemisphere from July through October.

How to find it? In the east after dark on these summer evenings, look near the horizon for Altair, the brightest star in the constellation Aquila the Eagle. This is the bottom star of the Summer Triangle; that is, it’s the last of these three bright stars to ascend over the horizon. It is located along the Milky Way.

History:  Aquila was one of the 48 constellations described by the second-century astronomer Ptolemy. It had been earlier mentioned by Eudoxus in the fourth century BC and Aratus in the third century BC. Aquila contains the Glowing Eye Nebula (NGC 6751), which is a planetary nebula made famous when its image was chosen to commemorate the Hubble’s 10th anniversary.

 Only eight of the stars have been officially approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which leaves all of the rest of the Aquila constellation stars to be named as gifts at Name a Star.

Learn How Different Cultures Have Contributed To Naming The Stars In The Sky

The names of stars come from many sources that vary in different regions of the world. Many cultures have rich histories of naming stars for mythology, agriculture, timekeeping, and navigation. Some of the most notable ancient cultures to catalog star names are Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, Polynesian, Persian, Indian, Babylonian, and Native American.

The Chinese inscribed star names on tortoise shells and were the first to record a super nova. Early Polynesians were highly skilled wayfinders who sailed thousands of miles over open ocean navigating by the stars. Egyptians created the modern calendar to predict the annual flooding of the Nile river. Halleys Comet has been noted by many cultures including the Babylonians in 164 BCE.


Ancient Arabic Star Catalog

Ancient Native Americans did not leave catalogs of star names, however they did leave behind rock art, pottery, and architecture indicating that they were studying the night sky long before the voyage of Columbus. The Indus Valley Civilization of India used advanced mathematics and astronomy in 800 BCE to properly place religious altars. A Persian astronomer in 894 AD built a giant sextant to measure the axial tilt of the earth. He discovered that the axial tilt is not constant but is in fact currently decreasing.

Most of the names of stars used in the west come from ancient Greek astronomy. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the only internationally recognized authority for assigning star names and surface features on them. So far the IAU has only approved a few hundred historical star names. The rest of the stars just have numbers.

In 1978, the founders of Name a Star developed a way for anyone to show their love and respect to others by assigning the names of loved ones to stars – stars that are otherwise listed as numbers in astronomy catalogs. Name a Star – The Original Star Naming Service – Since 1978® became the world’s first star naming company.

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Discover The Risqué Stories Behind Delphinus The Dolphin

Summary: Delphinus is both  a fun summer constellation and a racy character in mythological Greek stories of seduction and betrayal.


Symbolism: Dolphin

Mythology: There are two myths associated with the constellation Delphinus. According to the first, Greek god Poseidon wanted to marry Amphitrite, a beautiful nereid. However, wanting to protect her virginity, she fled to the Atlas mountains. Poseidon then sent out several searchers, among them Delphinus, the dolphin. Delphinus accidentally stumbled upon her and was able to persuade Amphitrite to accept Poseidon’s wooing. Out of gratitude, the god placed the image of a dolphin among the stars.

In the other myth, it was Apollo, the god of poetry and music, who placed the dolphin among the constellations for saving the life of Arion, a poet and musician, whose skill with the lyre made him famous in the 7th century BC. Arion was sailing back to Greece after a concert tour of southern Italy when the sailors who were also on the ship started plotting to kill him and take the money he had earned. The sailors granted Arion’s wish to play his lyre one last time. The music drew several dolphins to the ship. Arion jumped overboard. One of the dolphins saved him and carried him all the way back to Greece. Later, Arion confronted the sailors and had them sentenced to death. In this version of the myth, Apollo placed the dolphin next to the constellation Lyra in the sky, and Lyra represents Arion’s lyre.

When is it visible? Delphinus is visible all summer and reaches it peak in late August.

How to find it? Look for a dim triangle with a tail, high in the south to southeast. Once you find it, you will remember it, since Delphinus truly looks like a dolphin. One of our favorites, because it reminds us of all of the fun summer watersports. Delphinus is among five small Summer Triangle constellations: Lyra, Vulpecula, Sagitta, Delphinus and Equuleus.

History: It is one of the Greek constellations, first catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy of Alexandria in the 2nd century CE. The stars of Delphinus were also cataloged in Chinese astronomy, Polynesian culture, and Hindu astrology.  Only 5 of the stars in the Delphinus constellation have been named by the IAU, which leaves all of the rest of the Delphinus stars to be named as gifts at Name a Star.

Father’s Day Stargazing Gift Guide

Looking for a unique Father’s Day gift for a man with his head in the stars? Check out the ideas below for the stargazing dad from beginner to advanced.

father-son-telescopeWould dad like to get a closer look at the stars without becoming an astronaut? You could start him out with a good pair of binoculars. If dad is ready for a telescope, don’t waste your money on one that is difficult to assemble or too complicated. Here is a list of quality telescopes ranging from $100 to $2,000.

Don’t be confused by terms like focal length, aperture, reflector, and refractor. A reflector telescope uses mirrors and a refractor telescope uses lenses. A Catadioptric telescope combines the best of all of these features.

There are even travel telescopes, so dad can take it with him. They are lightweight, compact, and easy to set up. If you live in an apartment or space is at a premium, then this may be the best choice for dad.

We are talking about Father’s Day, so let’s get the kids involved. Dad and the kids can have hours of fun with the book 50 Things To See With A Telescope. You could also plan a fun group activity, like learning why the moon has craters. Make a dough out of flour and oil, then drop pebbles on this “moon surface” to see what kind of craters they make.

If dad has all of the gear he needs, then take him on a dark sky vacation. One of the newest dark sky locations is in Name a Star’s backyard at Prineville Reservoir. Whether it is a visit to your back yard or a trip to Oregon, get outside to enjoy the night sky.

If you really want to send dad into space, name a star after him. Name a Star offers a variety of Fathers Day gifts. You can even put a special message on his certificate of registration letting him know what a special dad his is.

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Spring Adventures In Night Sky Viewing

Lions, meteors, and space dust in the sky. Oh my!

Spring is a great time for stargazing. Temperatures have gotten a bit warmer and the nights are still long. In 2021, the spring equinox is officially March 20th.

A very bright Venus is still visible on the western horizon just after dark. To the south, Orion’s belt with the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, will disappear below the horizon in a few weeks, so get your last look until next fall.


Spring Constellations

In the east, the stars of spring are rising: Regulus in Leo, ruby red supergiant Arcturus in Boötes, and blue-white Spica in Virgo.

In April look for Leo “the lion”, in the south at about 10 p.m., and you will see a shape that looks like a backwards question mark made up of six stars. Leo’s prominence invites deeper looks into some of its celestial delights, including a great double star and famous galactic trio

Leo was one of the earliest recognized constellations, with archaeological evidence that the Mesopotamians had a similar constellation as early as 4000 BCE. The Persians called Leo Ser or Shir; the Turks, Artan; the Syrians, Aryo; the Jews, Arye; the Indians, Simha, all meaning “lion”. In Greek and Roman mythology, the Nemean Lion would take women as hostages to its lair in a cave, luring warriors from nearby towns to save the damsel in distress, to their misfortune. Using his bare hands, Hercules killed the lion and freed the maidens.

For a real special experience, go somewhere very dark to see an incredibly delicate celestial sight in the west just after the sun sinks. The “zodiacal light” is a cone of shimmering, faint white light only visible around the spring equinox. It is the sun’s light being reflected off huge swathes of dust and ice in the solar system.  We learned about these building blocks of stars and planets in a previous Name a Star post.

Are you a morning person, then the Eta Aquarids meteor shower is the stargazing experience for you. It is visible before dawn between April 19 and May 28 every year, peaking May 5 – 6. These brief bright streaks are caused by the Earth moving through the stream of fine dust particles left by the passage of Comet Halley.

It’s going to be a great spring. Keep looking up!

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How Stars Are Born And Die

The interstellar space between stars is not empty. It contains large amounts of gas and dust particles. These particles swirl around in space, and just like the dust in your house, they are not evenly distributed. We have all found dust bunnies under the furniture in the corners. The same thing happens in space as these particles accumulate into molecular clouds.

Molecular clouds are mix of atoms, molecules, and dust. Atoms are the small building blocks of all the stuff around us. Molecules consist of two or more atoms joined together. The molecules present in molecular clouds are typically molecular hydrogen, H2 , but can also be more complex molecules, such as methanol, which consists of six atoms, or water, which consists of three atoms. Dust grains are even larger clumps of matter and they can be up to a few millimeters in size, which is huge compared with atoms or molecules.


Eagle Nebula – Hubble Telescope

These clouds of dust are scattered across most galaxies. As they grow in size, they become known as nebula. One of the best known is the Orion Nebula.

Turbulence deep within these clouds gives rise to knots with sufficient mass that the gas and dust can begin to collapse under its own gravitational attraction. As the cloud collapses, the material at the center begins to heat up. Known as a protostar, it is this hot core at the heart of the collapsing cloud that will one day become a star.

Stars are fueled by the nuclear fusion of hydrogen to form helium deep in their interiors. The outflow of energy from the central regions of the star provides the pressure necessary to keep the star from collapsing under its own weight, and the energy by which it shines. After millions of years of collapsing and heating, a protostar stabilizes into an adult star. Stars the size of the Sun take 50 million years from beginning of collapse to adulthood.

Sometimes nebula collapse into two stars, called double stars.  These stars can share material or even merge into one big star. These big stars may overheat and explode in a supernova, leaving nothing behind. Stellar evolution is a circle of life — dying stars spew their contents into the galaxy, paving the way for the next generation.

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How To Name A Star


Viewing The Milky Way

The brightest stars which are easily visible by the naked eye were named by many ancient cultures including Greek, Latin, Arabic, Australian Aboriginal, Chinese, Coptic, Hindu, Mayan, Polynesian and South African. As a result many stars have multiple names.

Technically, anyone is free to give any name to any star, but if a name for an individual star is going to be used consistently by professional astronomers, it has to be approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The IAU is the only internationally recognized authority for assigning names to celestial objects and surface features on them. So far the IAU has only approved a few hundred historical star names.

There have been many historical star catalogues. The oldest known star catalog was produced by ancient Babylonians on clay tablets about 1500 BC. The Shang dynasty in China wrote star names on oracle bones about the same time. More modern catalogs include the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) catalog, Guide Star Catalog (GSC), and the Name a Star Record Book.

In 1978, the founders of Name a Star developed a way for anyone to show their love and respect to others by assigning the names of loved ones to stars – stars that are otherwise listed as numbers in astronomy catalogs. Name a Star – The Original Star Naming Service – Since 1978® became the world’s first star naming company.

Naming a star is easy. Just type a name and the date that you want to commemorate. It can be a special occasion, like a birthday, anniversary, or Valentine’s Day. There are multiple packages to choose from to fit any taste or budget. Every package includes a Certificate of Registration, which you can customize to create a unique gift. You can choose your favorite constellation and even add a message to show your love or a company logo to honor a colleague.

A memorial star is the perfect way to recognize a person or beloved pet that has passed away. Most constellations are only visible for part of the year. For example, Orion is easily viewed in the winter, but no where to be seen in the summer. Name a Star reserves the constellations that are visible year round, for memorial stars, so you can always go outside and feel close to that special person or furry companion again.

You can’t buy a star, but you can name a star as a novelty gift for a friend or loved one.

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Romancing The Stars

The night sky has inspired romance, wonder, and art for thousands of years. Check out the story of Cepheus and Cassiopeia. He was the easy going king of Ethiopia and she was the vain queen, a “mirror, mirror on the wall” type. Poseidon sent a sea monster after Cassiopeia for insulting his wife. She survived that ordeal, only to then insult Hera, queen of the Greek gods. Hera dispatched Cassiopeia to the sky.  A heart broken Cepheus begged his buddy Zeus to send him to be with his beloved Cassiopeia. Now Cephus and Cassiopea permanently embrace in the heavens.


Romantic Couple Stargazing

How would you like a romantic Valentine’s date that also contributes to science? Turn on the Globe at Night webbapp, bundle up your sweety, then go outside to look at the stars. As you cuddle, tell the app what you see, press submit, and become a citizen scientist! The app is easy to use. It shows you 6 versions of the night sky. You pick the one that looks most like what you see. If you are in the city, where only a few stars are visible, you can still participate. Just pick the image that only shows a few stars.

Globe at Night is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure & submit their night sky brightness observations. It’s easy to get involved – all you need is computer or smart phone.

Scientists are asking ordinary citizens to help measure light pollution, so the scientist can determine how we are doing at protecting our night sky. You don’t need detailed knowledge about constellations or astronomy. All you need to do is find Orion’s Belt. For help with that, check out a previous Name a Star post.

To maximize your star gazing experience, buy a star from Name a Star to present to your sweety. Be prepared: pack a picnic, a blanket, and groundsheet if it is wet, a few cushions for extra comfort and plenty of warm clothes. For true romance a bottle of wine or flask of hot chocolate is a must. Learn which constellations are visible, so you can point them out and impress your date.

Stargazing together is deeply romantic, free, and Covid safe.  Reconnect with your loved one and let Mother Nature take your breath away.



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