I think of possible names for our F9 on my morning walks. This is a little harder to do in June since the sun rises so early now, and I don’t see the morning stars unless I get out at before dawn. Like 4 am. Of course, the boat has to be named after a constellation or star. A 31 foot trimaran, well along in its ridiculously lengthy reconstruction, she has a shape that suggests the constellation Cygnus, the Swan, with its long, full main hull – the body of the swan – and its outstretched wings, or amas.


In full flight down the majestic Stream of Heaven – the Milky Way – the stars of Cygnus form a large cross, easily visible even against that enveloping brightness. The long arm of the cross is formed by the bright alpha star Deneb, at the tail, and fainter Albireo, at the head. The gentle arc of the inner wingspan, most easily seen in naked-eye observation, is made up of fainter Gienah, Sadr, and the delta star, at magnitude 2.84

Cygnus is also known as the ‘Northern Cross,’ because of it’s obvious cross shape.

Before the modern system of 88 constellations was adapted by the International Astronomical Union in 1922, there were a number of variations on way the night sky was charted, among them a ‘Christianized’ system, in the mid 1600s, that named this pattern in the sky Saint Helena’s Cross. Saint Helena, according to tradition, found the one true cross on which Jesus had died… it having been lost for some 300 years. And there is also the fact that Cygnus appears upright in the night sky, like the Christian cross, or crucifix, around the time of Christmas. A divine sign in some belief systems.

Cygnus, detail of ceiling fresco Cosmography of the Sala del Mappamondo, Villa Farnee

Deneb is also one of the three shining stellar corners, with Vega and Altair, of the beautiful ‘Summer Triangle,’ one of the easiest asterisms to identify, bright at the zenith on summer nights in the northern latitudes.

The sky tonight. Saturn lights low in the west at nightfall amid the stars of the Lion, constellation Leo. Regulus, heart of the Lion, shows close, toward the horizon. Leo sets around midnight while Scorpius, the dominant constellation of summer, also shows low, a bit south of east, now rising. Brilliant Jupiter rises after midnight in faint Capricornus. A last quarter moon rises in Pisces well after midnight, followed mid-morning, 3ish, with the beautiful conjunction of Venus and Mars, now in Aries. Mercury is just visible, near the horizon, in deep morning twilight, in Taurus. 15 June