Looking Up: Scooting Off To Scutum

Sep 30, 2019

The en:Scutum constellation from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius. The view is mirrored following the tradition of celestial globes, showing the celestial sphere in a view from "ouside". 1690
Credit Johannes Hevelius [Public domain] / wikimedia commons

This week on Looking Up we are 'shielded' from ignorance about the constellation Scutum, thanks to Bruce Bookout.

The night sky contains many odd objects besides the menagerie of strange creatures.  This time of year, in our southwestern sky, you will find a “shield” of stars. The shield is the constellation Scutum.

Scutum represents the coat of arms on the shield of John Sobieski, the king of Poland in the late 1600s. Sobieski is considered one of Poland’s great national heroes, where he stabilized and restored the Polish kingdom after countless years of devastation. As the Warrior King, he ensured victory over the Turks at the Battle of Vienna.

The noted stellar cartographer, Johannes Hevelius, first drew it around 1687, using a few stars from a relatively barren region of the sky. To honor his native country, Hevelius included the new constellation in his newest star atlas, which he published in 1690. He originally named it Scutum Sobiescianum - the shield of Sobieski. Of course, the last part of that names has been dropped in more recent times to keep it simply, Scutum. 

John III Sobieski at the Battle of Vienna. This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art.
Credit Jerzy Siemiginowski-Eleuter [Public domain] / wikimedia commons

Unfortunately, you need fairly dark skies to see it. Right now, look for it in the southwest as night falls. It’s above the teapot of Sagittarius. It’s only about four to five faint stars all somewhat in a line.

If you’d like to take a closer look at Scutum, or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties.