Constellations - Vulpecula and Sagitta

Constellations - Vulpecula and Sagitta


Vulpecula, the Little Fox is a faint constellation found near to Alberio in Cygnus. It was created by Johannes Hevelius in the 17th Century. It was orginally pictured as a fox with a goose. Later the goose was lost but it remains in spirit as the alpha star is named Anser, which is Latin for goose. This constellation is the home of the fantastic and easily seen Dumbell nebula. Also, look out for the 'coathanger' asterism in Vulpecula. The alpha star in Vulpecula is a binary star (4.4 on the chart). Vulpecula also holds the record for the place where the first neutron star pulsar was found in 1967. It is also the place where the first millisecond pulsar was identified.

Sagitta, the arrow is the third smallest constellation. Despite its faintness and size it was included by Ptolemy in his 48 constellations list.


Sagitta is thought to be the arrow that killed Aquila, the eagle that persecuted Prometheus by picking at his liver every day. Another theory is that it is the arrow of Eros used to make Zeus fall in love with Ganymede.

Take the Tour:

Number Object Description Magnitude Surface Brightness
1 M71 Globular Cluster 8.3 12
2 M27 Planetary Nebula 7.2 11.2

Each image is the size of a full moon for size comparison.



Messier 71 is an unusual globular cluster. It was considered to be an open cluster as it didn't contain many of the elements that make a globular cluster. Modern research has been able to determine that it is in fact a globular cluster and probably a young one at that. It is found 12,000 light years away and was discovered by Loys de Cheseaux in 1746. This globular is easy to identify if you can find the Sagitta constellation and is visible with binoculars.

M27, the Dumbell Nebula:


Messier 27, the dumbell nebula is a favourite amongst amateur astronomers. It is easily seen even with binoculars. M27 was the first planetary nebula discovered by Messier in July 1764. It is found approximately 1,300 light years away. The central white dwarf star is thought to be the largest white dwarf known. This nebula is expanding rapidly, at about 17 miles a second. Using this expansion rate it was calculated that the nebula is about 9,800 years old.

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