Camelopardalis | Cancer | Canes Venatici | Canis Major | Canis Minor | Capricornus | Carina | Cassiopeia | Centaurus
Cepheus | Cetus | Chamæleon | Circinus | Columba | Coma Berenices | Corona Australis | Corona Borealis | Corvus
Crater | Crux | Cygnus | Delphinus | Dorado | Draco | Equuleus | Eridanus | Fornax | Gemini | Grus | Hercules | Horologium
Hydra | Hydrus | Indus | Lacerta | Leo | Leo Minor | Lepus | Libra | Lupus | Lynx | Lyra | Mensa | Microscopium | Monoceros
Musca | Norma | Octans | Ophiuchus | Orion | Pavo | Pegasus | Perseus | Phoenix | Pictor | Pisces | Piscis Austrinus
Puppis | Pyxis | Reticulum | Sagitta | Sagittarius | Scorpius | Sculptor | Scutum | Serpens | Sextans | Taurus
Telescopium | Triangulum | Triangulum Australe | Tucana | Ursa Major | Ursa Minor | Vela | Virgo | Volans | Vulpecula
Two things there are, no doubt you know, to which a fox is used:
A rooster that is bound to crow, a crow that's bound to roost;
And whichsoever he espies, he tells the most unblushing lies.
'Sweet fowl,' he said, 'I understand you're more than merely natty;
I hear you sing to beat the band, and Adelina Patti1.
Pray render with your liquid tongue, a bit from Götterdämmerung.'
– The Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven by Guy Wetmore Carryl (1873 - 1904)
The Constellation Vulpecula
|Name:||Vulpecula (Latin: 'Fox')|
|Area:||268 sq deg|
|Co-ordinates2:||Right Ascension 20h, Declination +25°|
|Origin:||Modern (17th Century)|
Vulpecula is a small northern constellation bordered by Cygnus, Lyra, Hercules, Sagitta, Delphinus and Pegasus. Originally called Vulpecula cum Anser which means 'fox with goose', the accepted name has now been shortened to just Vulpecula and the 'goose' name given to the brightest star of the constellation. Due to its position in the night sky, the fox constellation has an arm of the Milky Way for a backdrop. Boasting a solo Messier object, M27 is one of the best planetary nebulae for viewing possibilities by backyard astronomers.
In the 17th Century, Johannes Hevelius (1611 - 1687), the founder of the field of lunar topography, delineated seven star formations which are included in the 88 internationally recognised modern constellations: Vulpecula, Sextans, Scutum, Lynx, Leo Minor, Lacerta and Canes Venatici. They were introduced in his 1690 atlas Firmamentum Sobiescianum, which was posthumously published by his second wife Elisabeth (1647 - 1693), also an astronomer. Known as 'the mother of moon charts', her life was commemorated in the 2006 book Die Sternjägerin (The Star Huntress) by Eric Walz.
Anser is a red giant some 300 light years3 distant. Its name means 'goose', which harks back to the time when the constellation was called 'fox with goose', as mentioned above. Anser (6 Vulpeculae) is a double star whose secondary, 8 Vulpeculae, is a 6th-mag orange giant.
The blue-white giant star 20 Vulpeculae is part of an open cluster which goes by the name of NGC 6885. It is also listed in Sir Patrick Moore's catalogue for backyard astronomers as Caldwell 37.
The first pulsar (fast rotating neutron star), CP 1919, was located in this region of the sky by student astronomer Jocelyn Bell in Cambridge, England, in July 1967, although she struggled for recognition. 'CP' stands for 'Cambridge Pulsar' and the '1919' are its coordinates: 19h 19m. When CP 1919 was first detected, a joke did the rounds that it was an 'alien' signal and its first (unofficial) designation was 'LGM-1' (Little Green Men-1). It is now known as PSR B1919+21 (the added +21 is its declination). Bell's teacher was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974 and there are still disagreements as to whether Bell should have been included in the honour. Ms Bell, an astrophysicist, is now Dame Jocelyn Bell, having been honoured by the Queen in the 2007 Birthday Honours List. Bell's pulsar is still detectable; it pulses once every 1.3373 seconds.
|alpha Vul||Anser 'goose'||+4.4||300||Red giant|
|23 Vul||HD 192806||+4.5||320||Orange giant|
|31 Vul||HD 198809||+4.5||210||Yellow dwarf|
|13 Vul||HD 188260||+4.5||360||Blue-white dwarf|
|15 Vul||HD 189849||+4.6||220||White giant|
|1 Vul||HD 180554||+4.7 var||900||Blue-white giant|
|29 Vul||HD 196724||+4.8 var||200||White giant|
|12 Vul||HD 187811||+4.9 var||620||Blue-white giant|
|8 Vul||HD 183491||+5.8 var||480||Orange giant|
|20 Vul||HD 192044||+5.9 var||1,000||Part of NGC 6885|
Deep Sky Objects
The New General Catalogue (NGC) was compiled by John Louis Emil Dreyer, who was the director of the Armagh Observatory from 1882 to 1916.
The Dumbbell Nebula
The Dumbbell Nebula is a bi-polar planetary nebula which French astronomer Charles Messier labelled M27 in his famous list of non-comets. It was the first planetary nebula to be discovered, but it has nothing to do with planets5. It is one of the brightest planetary nebulae and can be seen with binoculars.
Deep Sky Object Table
|NGC 6853||M27: The Dumbbell Nebula||Planetary Nebula||+8.1||Bi-polar|
|NGC 6802||Unnamed||Open Cluster||+8.8||50+ stars|
|NGC 6885||Caldwell 37||Open Cluster||+5.7||Surrounds 20 Vulpeculae|
|NGC 6940||Best 111||Open Cluster||+6.3||100+ stars|
The space debris which creates a meteor shower comes from the tail of a comet, as the Earth crosses where the comet passed previously on its own orbit. Imagine a trail of breadcrumbs, or sawdust like that used in hashing. There is a meteor shower associated with this constellation - the Vulpeculids, occurring between 13 June and 7 July every year.
Extrasolar Planets in Vulpecula
There have been three extrasolar planetary systems found in this constellation up to 2007. Figures given in the table below are the length of the planet's orbital period around its parent star, a period commonly known as a year. The mass of the extrasolar planet is compared to that of Jupiter, our solar system's largest planet, a ratio astronomers know as the 'Jovian scale'.
HD 189733 b is a so-called 'hot Jupiter' because it is so close to its star that it is tidally locked. The planet's temperature variations have been mapped — the first time ever for an exo planet.
HD 188015 b is in the habitable zone but as it is a gas giant it cannot support life. However, any rocky moons may harbour possibilities.
Extrasolar Planets Table
|Star name or
|Year of discovery||Comments|
|HD 188015||HD 188015 b||1.5||461||2005||Gas giant; habitable zone|
|HD 189733||HD 189733 b||1.15||2.22||2005||Hot Jupiter|
|HD 190228||HD 190228 b||5||1,127||2002||Superjovian|
- The British band Joy Division used a graph of 100 successive pulses from the pulsar CP 1919 as cover art on their 1979 debut album Unknown Pleasures.
- Vulpecula is the name of a metal band from Kansas City whose musical focus has been 'a celebration of the night'. Tracks on their 1997 debut album Down Among Them included 'The Hydra Void', 'Eltanin6 Shadowcast' and 'Ad Astra per Aspera' (To the Stars Through Hardship).
Only the sharpest eye, the keenest nose,
The quickest ear and fleetest toes
Can ever outfox the fox!
They'll never outfox the fox!
'Outfox the Fox' – a song composed by Sammy Cahn and Sylvia Fine, from the soundtrack of the film The Court Jester starring Danny Kaye.