VULPECULA (The Fox) and SAGITTA (The Arrow), pronounced vul-PECK-yoo-lah and sa-JIT-tah
Vulpecula the "Little Fox"is a faint constellation above Cygnus, lying across the Milky Way with Sagitta. It originated in 1690 with the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius, who called it Vulpecula cum Anser, the Little Fox and Goose. Since then the Goose has fled.
Sagitta the "Arrow" is a small narrow constellation immersed in the Milky Way between Aquila and Vulpecula. Despite it being small, this distinctive arrow-shaped group was known to the ancient Greeks. In the sky, the Arrow seems to be flying between Cygnus the Swan and Aquila the Eagle. One legend says that the Arrow was shot by Hercules.
To find these constellations look north late evening, find the bright star Altair and look below for the distinctive arrow shape of Sagitta, and below it, Vupecula.
Chart showing Vulpecula and Sagitta as seen when highest to the north.
The horizon shown is for the extreme south of New Zealand.
Some stars and interesting objects in the Constellations
α Vulpeculae is a magnitude 4.4 red giant star 297 light years away. In binoculars an unrelated 6th magnitude star appears nearby.
M 27 (NGC 6853), the Dumbbell Nebula, is a large and bright pale blue planetary nebula visible in binoculars, but better seen in telescopes. This is one of the nearest planetary nebula, being about 1,250 light years away. It appears to cover ¼ the diameter of the full Moon. Visually it appears as a dumbbell shaped misty green glow. Long exposure photographs shows a complex pattern of blue and pink gas.
Brocchi's Cluster (Cr 399) is a large and bright open cluster of stars know colloquially as the Coathanger. It appears as an almost straight line of six stars, with a curve of stars forming the hook extended from the centre of the line. It is visible to the unaided eye as a misty patch, and is a fine object through binoculars and small telescopes.
α Sagittae is a magnitude 4.4 yellow giant star 473 light years away.
β Sge is a magnitude 4.4 orange giant star 467 light years away.
γ Sge is the brightest star in the constellation at magnitude at 3.5. It is an orange giant star about 274 light years away.
δ Sge is a magnitude 3.8 orange giant star 448 light years away.
M 71 (NGC 6838) is a beautiful globular cluster appearing as a misty patch in binoculars, and nebulous in small telescopes. It lies about 14,000 light years away.
The constellations Vulpecula and Sagitta are well north of the equator and thus fairly low as seen from New Zealand. At their highest they have an altitude between about 20° and 30° from mid southerly latitudes. They are to the north about 11.30 pm in mid August, 9.30 pm mid September. By early November they are beginning to set as the sky darkens following sunset and become lost in evening twilight by the middle of the month.