The Constellation of the Shield (Scutum - Sct)

The Shield Constellation

This constellation, as we can see in the map realized with Stellarium, is located in an area of sky very well visible in the summer evenings, along the Milky Way and between constellations that can be easily recognized, the Eagle and Sagittarius on one side and Ophiuchus on the other, even if in reality the latter is beyond the caudal part of the Constellation of the Serpent, the Tail of the Serpent.

Once we have discovered the remarkable characteristics of the Shield, especially its globular clusters, we will have no excuse not to look for it up there, in plain sight almost halfway between two famous and brilliant stars in the summer skies, such as Altair and Antares.

The name, history and myth of the Shield

The constellation of the Shield is very recent, having been introduced by Hevelius in 1684 to commemorate the Polish king Jan Sobieski III who participated in the reconstruction of the astronomer's observatory, which was destroyed by fire in 1679. So it was that Hevelius, in gratitude, stole some stars from the Eagle, to represent originally the whole armor of the King of Poland, on which stood a cross. Then it was reduced to the only shield of the leader who countered the Saracen advance in Europe by liberating Vienna from the Turks in 1683.

In ancient times the constellation was known as Clypeus, then as Sobieski's Shield (Scutum Sobiescianum) and then it was simplified into Shield.

The constellation of the Shield is full of important stars as well as deep sky objects, as we will see immediately after the representation according to Hevelius

The Shield according to Hevelius

who created it, initially calling it Scutum Sobiescianum, to commemorate his King John III Sobieski especially for his victory in the battle of Vienna, but also for having contributed years earlier to the redevelopment of the observatory, destroyed by fire.

Let us now see the representation according to Stellarium: nothing to add.

The Shield according to Stellarium

The stars of the Shield

comparison between the stars of the Shield and other notes

A quick glance at the comparison diagram between the stars of the Shield and others, famous and not, shows us that there are only two big stars and from their colour we can deduce that they belong to the same spectral class of our Sun: without even reading how much, we already know that they will be much bigger than the Sun.

In fact, the first yellow giant, β Sct, of stellar class G5, is 68 times our Sun, while the second, ε Sct, of spectral class G8, is relatively smaller, but still 29 times our Sun.

My Betascuciti friends are famous for always dressing very scruffy, but the photo of their sun (10 UA) apparently immersed in a star cluster is vice versa unexceptionable.

The Escuterians, on the other hand, have a crazy passion for motorbikes, riding them all the time: that's why the picture of their sun (always from 10 UA) was moved and I didn't have time to send me a better copy.

There are no stars in the constellation that are particularly close to our solar system, so let's forget all this nonsense and get to know the...

Deep sky objects

By far the most famous and fascinating object is M11, therefore belonging to the Messier catalogue, an open cluster called Wild Duck.

the M11 star cluster

Another famous object, always belonging to the Messier catalogue, is M26

star cluster M26

Then we have the beautiful globular cluster catalogued with the initials NGC 6712

the globular cluster NGC 6712

Finally we have a beautiful planetary nebula called IC 1295

the planetary nebula IC 1295

Names of stars and visibility

None of the stars of the Shield has ever received a name: just out of curiosity I report what I found on the internet, without further checks

  • Ionnina (a Sct): that makes you think of Little Red Riding Hood...

As far as the visibility of the constellation is concerned, at the usual time of 9 p.m., it is low on the horizon, towards East, in mid-June, culminating in South at the beginning of September, and then low on the horizon, towards West, at the end of October.

All that's left is to watch her!

Audio Video The Constellation of the Shield (Scutum - Sct)
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