Sagitta and Delphinus: Little Known Constellations in the Night Sky

Know where you can find an empty cornfield? Great! If not, you can still enjoy stargazing and all the night sky has to offer this fall. If you’ve gotten past the more common and easily recognizable constellations in the sky and want more to look for then try Sagitta and Delphinus two little known constellations.

Sagitta, the arrow, is the 3rd smallest constellation yet has been identified in many myths and legends. One legend has the constellation Sagitta as being the arrow that Hercules used to kill the Stymphalian birds. The Stympahlian birds were rumored to have claws and teeth made of iron and ate only on the flesh of humans. The little known Sagitta is also known as the arrow that pierced and killed Jupiter’s favored eagle. One of the more popular versions of Sagitta’s origin have it placed as Cupid’s arrow responsible for inspiring love for another once it pierced its victim. The arrow itself is the emblem of Diana and Appolo and is used to symbolize supreme power.

Sagitta can be easily viewed from the Northern Hemisphere and though little know is very apparent. The best time for viewing Sagitta is early September and thru the fall. Orient yourself by looking southward, Sagitta can be found sitting between Cygnus, the swan, and Aquila, the eagle. Sagitta appears to have been shot at Aquila but missed its mark. This little constellation is composed of four stars making the shape of an arrow.

Delphinus, the dolphin, is also a small and little known constellation in the northern hemisphere. Delphinus has more than one legend attached to it as well. The first deals with a poet and musician named Arion who was sailing and providing entertainment aboard a Greek ship. Arion found himself in trouble when the crew of the ship became angered with him and knowing the dolphins love for music Arion began to play his lute calling a pod of friendly dolphins to him. The dolphin that resides among the stars was the very one that carried Arion back to Greece. Delphinus’ story does not end there. The same dolphin then helped Poseidon find his queen, Amphitrite, a mermaid and brought her back to live in Poseidon’s underwater court. For his service the Gods had Delphinus placed in the night sky.

Delphinus can also be easily found in the northern hemisphere in early September and through the fall. Delphinus appears to be jumping out of the water with its back to the Milky Way. Again you need to locate Aquila in the sky, then distinguish Altair from the constellation which is the brightest star. Follow a line stright from Altair northeast till you reach a cluster of four stars with a fifth star serving as a tail. The two larger stars in Delphinus are named Sualocin and Rotanev names which when spelled backwards read Nicolaus Venator, an astronomer from the Palermo Observatory where Delphinus was first catalogued.

Happy Stargazing!

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