Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Located high in the southern sky and in a rich part of the Milky Way, Aquila the Eagle was thought to be Zeus' favored pet. Many Greek myths indicated that Aquila carried the thunderbolts Zeus frequently hurled at troublesome humans. In fact since eagles seemed to be the fastest creatures, the Greek associated them with lightning strikes. In other Greek myths Aquila swooped down to carry away a mortal named Ganymede who Zeus fancied. Zeus to his servants: “I’m so busy today. Send my eagle around to pick him up.”

Another gruesome Greek tale involved Prometheus and the Eagle. The gods punished Prometheus for stealing fire from Mt. Olympus and sharing this powerful gift with us lowly humans. As a punishment he was chained to a rock while a giant eagle came to feast on his liver. But having this happen only once wasn’t good enough. The gods magically restored his liver every day so that the eagle could return to torture Prometheus for eternity. Wow, that’s harsh. What was poor Prometheus thinking as he awoke in the morning, whole, only to hear the ominous flap, flap, flapping of the eagle’s wings coming ever closer?  Prometheus was finally freed from the tortuous existence by Hercules who killed the eagle with an arrow. Fire anyone?

Aquila’s Main Star:

Rapidly Rotating Altair

ALTAIR - “Flying Eagle” in Arabic
One of our closest neighbors at 17 light years away
Part of the Summer Triangle with Deneb in the
constellation Cygnus and Vega in the constellation Lyra.

Easily identified for its brightness as well as two sentinel stars on each side of it, Alshain and Tarazed. These stars get their names from the Persian name for Aquila, Shahin Tara Zed, or the Star Striking Falcon.

“She (Altair) steals into the sky timidly and seems to tremble there as if half afraid and shyly reveals her beauty to us before we are scarcely aware of her presence.”  Altair spins so fast that it's squished at the poles!