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The Constellation: Cygnus


Cygnus (the swan) had many identities; however Cygnus was most likely Zeus in disguise. Leda (the wife of the Spartan king, Tyndareus, and the mother of the Gemini and Helen of Troy) had unrivaled beauty. Leda was so beautiful that Zeus could not resist her. Zeus knew that as himself he would not be able to win the love of Leda. Instead he took the form of a beautiful swan and eventually won her love.

Another story about Cygnus involves two gods who were racing chariots in space. The two friends were so intent and focused on the race that they were not paying attention to where they were going. Suddenly, they found themselves too close to the sun, and their chariots started to melt. The two friends fell toward the Earth. One fell through some trees, which broke his fall. The other landed in a river and was knocked unconscious. The first friend wanted to rescue the other from the river but did not know how to swim. He asked Zeus to turn him into a swan, so that he could dive to the bottom of the river and save his friend. Moved by the young man’s friendship, Zeus turned him into a swan. He dove to the bottom of the river and saved his friend’s life. Zeus was again moved by his bravery, so when the swan died, Zeus placed him in the sky to serve as a reminder of courage and friendship.

Can you find Cygnus?

Cygnus the Swan is easy to find as it flies south along the path of the Milky Way. It is easiest to spot by looking straight up and looking for the three brightest stars forming what is known as the Summer Triangle. The bright star in the lower left of this triangle is Deneb, the tail of the swan. By using this star and looking in toward the center of the triangle, you can now spot Cygnus.

Explore the Mythologies of Globe at Night Constellations