Constellations: Scutum 'the Shield' Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Constellations: Scutum 'the Shield'

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The shield of the Science, Mathematics and Engineering faculty of the h2g2 University.Constellations: Overview | Andromeda | Antlia | Apus | Aquarius | Aquila | Ara | Aries | Auriga | Boötes | Caelum
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
Above all, taking the shield of faith,
wherewith you will be able to quench
all the fiery darts of the wicked.

– Ephesians 6:16

Above Sagittarius stands the more modern constellation Scutum. Pronounced skoo-tem, this constellation did not exist prior to the 1600s and is therefore considered modern. It was originally called Scutum Sobiescianum in honour of Polish warrior king John Sobieski.


When the Ottoman Empire tried to expand and take over Vienna, pope Innocent XI sent out a call for a 'holy league' of soldiers. This was answered by Sobieski, who was put in charge of a combined force of 70,000 men. This defeated an army twice its size. At the end of the battle the king was heard to say Veni, vidi, Deus vicit, which translates as 'I came, I saw, God conquered.' This battle was the beginning of the end to the threat posed to Europe by the Ottoman Empire.

The founder of lunar topography, Johannes Hevelius (1611 - 87), delineated seven star formations in the 17th Century which are included in the 88 internationally recognised modern constellations: Scutum, Sextans, Vulpecula, Lynx, Leo Minor, Lacerta and Canes Venatici. They were introduced in his 1690 atlas Firmamentum Sobiescianum. When Hevelius drew up this star group it was the first modern constellation to be linked to a living person.

Constellation Data

Name:Scutum ('shield')
Short form:Sct
Area:109 sq deg
Co-ordinates1:Right Ascension 19h, Declination −10°

Formation of the Shield

  • Alpha Scuti is located at the right corner of the shield.
  • Beta Scuti is located at top corner of the shield
  • Zeta Scuti is the strap for the shield
  • Delta and epsilon Scuti are located at the left corner of the shield
  • Gamma Scuti is located at bottom corner of the shield


The system of naming the 24 brightest stars with Greek letters goes back to Johannes Bayer (1572 - 1625) and uses a Greek letter followed by the genitive (possessive) form of the constellation name. In 1862, Prussian astronomer Friedrich W Arlander (1799 - 1875) proposed that variable stars should have a new designation. This procedure assigns the first variable without a Greek letter the designation 'R'. This is followed by the next upper-case letters through to Z. Today, when these letters are exhausted, a two-letter name is used, starting with RR and going through to ZZ. Variable stars already bearing a Greek letter are not renamed, but keep their original designation.

Star Table

(light years)
Spectral Classification
α SctAlpha Scuti2HD 6973+3.85174K3
β SctBeta ScutiHD 7063+4.22690G4
ζ SctZeta ScutiHD 6884+4.68191G9
γ SctGamma ScutiHD 6930+4.7291A3
δ SctDelta ScutiHD 7020+4.72187F2
η SctEta ScutiHD 7149+4.83207K2
ε SctEpsilon ScutiHD 7032+4.9523G8
R SctR ScutiHD 7066Variable32,500K0

Clusters and Nebulae

There are two Messier catalogued objects in Scutum: M11 is the Wild Duck Cluster and M26. Both are open clusters.

Catalogue NoNameTypeMagnitudeDistance (light years)
M11Wild Duck ClusterOpen Cluster+6.36,000
M26Bode 59Open Cluster+8.05,000
NGC 6631 Open Cluster+11.18,480
NGC 6664 Open Cluster+7.87,500
NGC 6683 Open Cluster+9.43,904
NGC 6704 Open Cluster+9.29,700
NGC 6712 Globular Cluster+8.6922,500
NGC 6649 Open Cluster+8.95,200

Reflection Nebula IC 1287

The Reflection Nebula IC 1287 shines faintly, covering about 20' of arc within the rich star field near NGC 6649. Unlike emission nebulae, this type of cloud typically has a pale-blue sheen caused by the reflection and scattering of light by interstellar dust.

Planetary Nebula IC 1295

The Planetary Nebula is situated near the globular cluster NGC 6712. Although ninth magnitude, it is a difficult target for backyard astronomers.

Meteor Shower

The June Scutids is a minor meteor shower whose existence was finally confirmed within the past 40 years. This low-rate display (up to four per hour if you are lucky) is active between 2 June and 29 July, peaking around 27 June.

Extrasolar Planets

Two extrasolar planets were discovered in the Scutum constellation by the COROT mission, both during 2011. COROT-16 b and COROT-17 b are both hot gas giants. They orbit far too close to their parent stars to be candidates for life as we know it.

1Current guidelines by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) use a plus sign (+) for northern constellations and a minus sign (−) for southern ones.2Alpha Scuti has a Greek name: Ι ω α ν ν ι ν α (Ioannina), which translates as 'of John'. It refers to the coat of arms on the shield.3R Scuti is a variable with a peak brightness of +4.5 and a minimum of +8.2, with a period of 142 days.

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