If you were to go outside past midnight (EST) on a summer’s eve and crank your eyes to the sky—what would you see?
Yup, you’d see stars, but don’t be a smart ass! I’m referring to a peculiar star known as Deneb in the Constellation Cygnus.
**AHEM** allow me to put on my wizard hat and cast a few spells to highlight what I’m talking about. As you can see in the image above, I graciously added lanes of white to highlight the constellation Cygnus.
Cygnus is an easy constellation to locate. Look for a cross-like asterism that is situated below Vega. It’s a sizeable constellation, so remember to ‘look big’.
Dened, the star of this post, is the stellar lighthouse that’s situated at the tail end of Cygnus the Swan. Hold on, I’ll cast a few more spells to show you exactly what I’m talking about:
**SHABAMM** You see that MASSIVE green arrow? It points directly to the star Deneb. You can’t get anymore convenient than that!
I’ve always been a fan of Deneb, in fact, it’s one of my favorite stars, and I’ll tell you why. Deneb, although it looks like a fairly ordinary star—it’s not. Situated at **cough** 2,400-7,000 light years (best estimate) it shines at, drum roll please…1.25 magnitude! That’s about a hundred times brighter than the dimmest star you can see with your eyes.
Talk about being a fat bastard: Deneb is estimated at being around 200x the diameter of our sun.
And you thought your kid was bright—Deneb is believed to be around 54,000 – 196,000 times as luminous as the sun. Most stars that are apparently bright are relatively nearby (a handful of light years). Deneb is many times farther away than, let’s say, Sirius—which is the brightest star in the entire night sky—is about 8 light years from Earth.
Again: Deneb is estimated at being 2,400-7000 light years away.
Speaking of intrinsic brightness, Rigel, a star in the constellation Orion, is the only star that we know of that surpasses Deneb in brightness.
Time to put on your thinking cap: Imagine if Deneb was as close as Sirius. I’m no mathematician, but I imagine Deneb would be pretty damn bright. Calculations say that its absolute magnitude is a frightening -8.4, making it one of the brightest stars humankind has the pleasure of being scared of. Deneb also has the pleasure of being the furthest 1’st magnitude star as seen from Earth.
To put that in perspective: Venus shines at around -4.6 magnitude, which is pretty damn bright. Here—have a look for yourself.
See that? Yup! That’s Venus. As you can see for yourself, Venus looks like a star that pumped its ass full of steriods. Look at those puny, weak, little stars that litter the night time canvas. Pathetic.
We all would be bowing down at Deneb’s brilliance. Who knows exactly how bright Deneb would be if it were as close as Sirius. I like to imagine it as a cosmic laser beam that bores its way through any helpless eye socket. What? A boy can imagine, can’t he?
That’s the main question that keeps my brain awake at night.
Once you know how to locate Cygnus, Deneb becomes easy to locate by default. Conveitly, Deneb is the alpha star within the Cygnus constellation (a fancy way of saying it’s the brightest star).
Time for some training! I have dispelled my previous incantations—let’s see if you can locate Deneb all by yourself.
Did you find it yet?
Great! I’ll have to take your word for it. Remember: if you cheat, the only one you screw is yourself. It can be difficult at first, but the more you look, the more you see.
Deneb always happens to part of the Summer Triangle. I mentioned this starry geometry in my post about the star Vega. Deneb marks the lower left vertice—even easier to locate is you’re familiar with the Summer Triangle.
Whoa—look at those squiggly green circles! Yes! I’ve leveled up since our last exploration into the night sky. I’m able to summon poorly shaped, geometric shapes that highlight whatever I happen to think of.
The stars that are imprisoned in the green circles are as follows:
Vega (Upper triangle)
Altair (Lower right)
If you go outside and don’t happen to see this big-ass triangle—don’t throw a tantrum! All it means is you’re probably not looking at the sky as a whole. You have to learn to ‘look big’, and stop concentrating on tiny sections of the sky.
Remember: the sky is HUGE. Learn to take it all in….Ummm…yeah.
If it happens to be summer where you live; the later you go outside, the higher the Summer Triangle will be in the sky. Vega will be the easiest to spot, but like I said, I already covered that topic.
Before the summer is over, make sure to look for Deneb with your own two eyes. As you throw out the trash one night, feel free to gaze upward: set your eyes toward the Cosmic Swan. Deneb will be there, a faraway beacon that refuses to give in to the darkness of space.
…what? I can’t be poetic?