The Night Sky: Aquila and Altair

The Eagle flew away, before Thanksgiving Day.


Attached is a picture I took of the constellation Aquila. As the Earth orbits the Sun during the year constellations come into view in the East as others leave our sky and set in the West. Aquila is a summer constellation. It was almost straight up in our sky during the summer when I took this picture. It is now leaving our sky until next year and can be found in the West at this time.

Aquila is Latin for eagle. I guess with some imagination one can see an eagle, but I simply see a diamond shape. Aquila has the Milky Way in the background. Clouds of countless stars in our Milky Way galaxy can be seen running through the right side of the picture. The Milky Way has been called the ‘Backbone of Night’ and one can begin see why from this picture.

The brightest star in Aquila is Altair. Altair is 17 light years from Earth. It has twice the mass of our Sun and is 11 times as bright. Our Sun rotates in about 26 days. Altair rotates in only 9 hours. This fast rotation results in Altair not being spherical. It is much wider at the equator than at the poles. This effect is known as oblateness, and is observed in almost all rotating stars and planets. Even the Sun and the Earth are oblate, though to a much lesser extent than the rapidly rotating Altair.

Starry Nights!

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