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Look Up! It’s … a Dolphin?

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Look Up! It’s … a Dolphin?

If you want to see a dolphin, your best bet would be to look in the ocean, but did you know you can also see one in the night sky?

The constellation Delphinus is one of the 88 officially recognized modern constellations, and was among the 48 constellations listed by the Second Century Greek astronomer Ptolemy. It’s name comes from the Latin word meaning “dolphin.”

Delphinus sits along the Milky Way in the northern sky, surrounded by Vulpecula, Sagitta, Aquila, Aquarius, Equuleus, and Pegasus.

The constellation contains 19 stars, none of which are particularly bright. The four brightest stars – Alpha Delphini, Beta Delphini, Gamma Delphini, and Delta Delphini – form a famous asterism known as Job’s Coffin, a diamond shape that is also the body of the constellation’s namesake animal. Gamma Delphini is notable for being a binary star. Another star of note is the variable star R Delphini.

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Delphinus also contains several deep sky objects, including the planetary nebula NGC 6891, and the globular clusters NGC 6934 and NGC 7006.

Like most ancient constellations, Delphinus is steeped in myth. According to the Ancient Greeks, Delphinus was a dolphin who greatly pleased the sea god Poseidon. The god had fallen in love with a beautiful sea nymph named Amphitrite. Unfortunately, Amphitrite did not share Poseidon’s feelings and fled to hide from him, and the god sent out a search party to to find her. Delphinus, who was among their number, happened upon the nymph and was able to persuade her to accept Poseidon’s affection. The god showed his gratitude by placing the dolphin’s image in the heavens for all eternity.

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