Sagitta constellation lies in the northern sky, within the Milky Way. Its name means “the arrow” in Latin. The constellation represents Heracles’ arrow in Greek mythology.
Sagitta is the third smallest constellation in the sky and has no stars brighter than fourth magnitude. It was first catalogued by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century.
The constellation contains the globular cluster Messier 71 (NGC 6838).
FACTS, LOCATION & MAP
Sagitta lies in the fourth quadrant of the northern hemispere (NQ4) and can be seen at latitudes between +90° and -70°, from every location on Earth except the Antarctic circle.
Sagitta contains one Messier object – Messier 71 (M71, NGC 6838) – and has one star with a confirmed planet.
The brightest star in the constellation is Gamma Sagittae, with an apparent visual magnitude of 3.51.
There are no meteor showers associated with the constellation.
Sagitta belongs to the Hercules family of constellations, along with Aquila, Ara, Centaurus, Corona Australis, Corvus, Crater, Crux, Cygnus, Hercules, Hydra, Lupus, Lyra, Ophiuchus, Scutum, Sextans, Serpens, Triangulum Australe and Vulpecula.
Sagitta constellation is usually associated with the arrow that Heracles used to kill the eagle that Zeus sent to gnaw Prometheus’ liver. In mythology, Prometheus moulded men and women out of clay in gods’ likeness, and gave them fire that he had stolen from the gods. Zeus decided to punish him for this, and chained him to Mount Caucasus, where the eagle perpetually gnawed his liver, which would always grow again at night.
The eagle is represented by the neighbouring constellation Aquila. Heracles found Prometheus during one of his journeys, killed the eagle with an arrow, and freed Prometheus.
In a different myth, Sagitta is identified as the arrow Apollo used to kill the Cyclopes because they had made the thunderbolts of Zeus that killed Apollo’s son Asclepius, the famous healer, who is represented by Ophiuchus constellation.
In yet another story, Sagitta is associated with the arrow of Eros which made Zeus fall in love with Ganymede, the shepherd represented by Aquarius constellation. In this story, Zeus’ eagle guards the arrow in the sky.
The Greeks knew the constellation as Oistos, and the Romans later named it Sagitta.
MAJOR STARS IN SAGITTA
γ Sagittae (Gamma Sagittae)
Gamma Sagittae is the brightest star in Sagitta constellation. It is an orange giant with the stellar classification K5III. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 3.51 and is approximately 274 light years distant from the solar system. The star is about 640 times more luminous than the Sun and has a mass 2.5 times solar.
δ Sagittae (Delta Sagittae)
Delta Sagittae has the stellar classification of M2II+B6. It is a close multiple star system that has a red bright giant for the primary component. The secondary component is a white or blue-white main sequence star in a 3,725 day orbit. The system is approximately 448 light years distant from the Sun and has an apparent visual magnitude of 3.68. It is 2,800 times more luminous than the Sun.
α Sagittae (Sham – Alpha Sagittae)
Alpha Sagittae is the third brightest star in Sagitta. It is a yellow bright giant with the stellar classification of G1 II. It has an apparent magnitude of 4.39 and is approximately 620 light years distant from Earth. It is 340 times more luminous than the Sun and has a mass four times solar. The star’s radius is about 20 times that of the Sun.
The star’s traditional name, Sham or Alsahm, is derived from the Arabic sahm, which means “the arrow.”
β Sagittae (Beta Sagittae)
Beta Sagittae is a yellow giant star with the stellar classification G8IIIa. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 4.387 and is approximately 470 light years distant from the solar system. The star has a radius 10 times that of the Sun.
ζ Sagittae (Zeta Sagittae)
Zeta Sagittae is a triple star system in Sagitta. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 5.01 and is approximately 326 light years distant. The primary component is a white main sequence star with the stellar classification of A3V.
η Sagittae (Eta Sagittae)
Eta Sagittae is an orange giant belonging to the spectral class K2III. It has an apparent magnitude of 5.09 and is approximately 162 light years distant.
ε Sagittae (Epsilon Sagittae)
Epsilon Sagittae is another multiple star system in Sagitta. It has an apparent magnitude of 5.67 and is approximately 473 light years distant from the Sun. The primary star in the system is a yellow giant with the stellar classification G8IIIvar.
15 Sagittae is a solar analog in Sagitta. It is a yellow main sequence star with the stellar classification of G0V. It has a visual magnitude of 5.8 and is 57.7 light years distant from Earth.
In 2002, a brown dwarf of the spectral type L4 was discovered orbiting the star in a long-period orbit. It was the first brown dwarf candidate orbiting a solar analog discovered via imaging.
HD 231701 is a yellow-white dwarf belonging to the spectral class F8V. It has a visual magnitude of 8.97 and is 353.6 light years distant from the solar system. In 2007, a Jupiter-like planet was discovered orbiting the star with a period of 142 days.
θ Sagittae (Theta Sagittae)
Theta Sagittae is a multiple star system about 147 light years away in Sagitta. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 6.51.
The primary star is a yellow-white subgiant with the stellar classification F5IV. It is believed to be about 1.9 billion years old.
S Sagittae is a Cepheid variable with an F8-G7 spectrum and variations in brightness ranging from 5.5 to 6.2 over a period of 8.38 days. It has a mean apparent magnitude of 5.71 and is approximately 4,289 light years distant from Earth.
U Sagittae is an Algol-type eclipsing variable. It has the stellar classification B8III + K. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 6.50 and is approximately 1,012 light years distant from the Sun.
9 Sagittae (QZ Sagittae)
9 Sagittae is a blue supergiant with the stellar classification of O8e. It has an apparent magnitude of 6.24 and an absolute magnitude of -6.95.
The star is 14,174 light years distant from the Sun. It is part of a multiple star system.
DEEP SKY OBJECTS IN SAGITTA
Messier 71 (M71, NGC 6838)
Messier 71 is a loosely concentrated globular cluster in Sagitta.
It has an apparent magnitude of 6.1 and is approximately 13,000 light years distant.
The cluster was discovered by the Swiss astronomer Philippe Loys de Chéseaux in 1746.
Charles Messier included it in his catalogue in 1780.
M71 spans about 27 light years across and has a luminosity of about 13,2000 Suns.
Necklace Nebula (PN G054.2-03.4)
The Necklace Nebula is a planetary nebula in Sagitta.
It is approximately 15,000 light years distant from the solar system.
The nebula was discovered in 2005.
The Necklace Nebula was created when a giant star came too close to its binary companion and exploded, producing the nebula.
NGC 6839 is an asterism in Sagitta which was included in the New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (NGC).
It has an apparent visual magnitude of 8.4.
It was discovered by William Herschel on August 18, 1784.
The cluster consists of about 11 stars of magnitude 11 and fainter.