A guide to the constellation Cygnus

How to see the constellation Cygnus, and some of the best deep-sky objects to observe within the region.

A diagram showing the constellation Cygnus

Cygnus the Swan is a constellation in the northern hemisphere and one of the most prominent and easily recognisable star patterns in the summer and autumn night sky.

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Cygnus was among the first 48 constellations compiled by the 2nd century astrologer and astronomer Ptolemy, and remains one of the official 88 constellations today.

It’s perhaps most notable for containing the Northern Cross asterism, and its bright star Deneb is both the tail of the swan, but also one of the stars in the Summer Triangle asterism (one of our favourite summer constellations and asterisms).

A diagram showing the constellation Cygnus
The Cygnus and Lyra constellations. Credit: Bernhard Hubl / CCDGuide.com

Cygnus is also well-known among deep-sky observers and astrophotographers because it contains many nebulae, including the North America Nebula, the Tulip Nebula, the Pelican Nebula and the monumental Veil Nebula.

Other notable targets in Cygnus include the double star Albireo, reflection nebula NGC 6914, open star cluster M39 and the Gamma Cygni Nebula.

Mosaic of the Cygnus constellation in H-alpha by André van der Hoeven, HI-Ambacht, The Netherlands/Bleialf, Germany. Equipment: Canon 100mm F2.0 lens, SXV-H9 CCD, NEQ-6 mount
Mosaic of the Cygnus constellation in H-alpha by André van der Hoeven, HI-Ambacht, The Netherlands/Bleialf, Germany. Equipment: Canon 100mm F2.0 lens, SXV-H9 CCD, NEQ-6 mount

Below is a selection of images of Cygnus and deep-sky objects found within the constellation, captured by BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers and astrophotographers.

For astro imaging advice, read our beginner’s guide to astrophotography or discover our pick of the best astrophotography cameras.

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And don’t forget to send us your images or share them with us via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Cygnus Wide Field by Tom Howard, Crawley, Sussex, UK. Equipment: Nikon D7000, Nikkor 35mm lens, EQ6 mount.
Cygnus Wide Field by Tom Howard, Crawley, Sussex, UK. Equipment: Nikon D7000, Nikkor 35mm lens, EQ6 mount.
Nebulosity around Sadr by Tom Howard, Crawley, Sussex, UK. Equipment: Nikon D7000, Teleskop Service 65mm refractor, EQ6 mount.
Nebulosity around Sadr by Tom Howard, Crawley, Sussex, UK. Equipment: Nikon D7000, Teleskop Service 65mm refractor, EQ6 mount.
Cygnus plus Nebulosity by William Hughes, Doncaster, UK. Equipment: Modified Canon 600D, Samyang 35mm, Polarie tracking mount.
Cygnus plus Nebulosity by William Hughes, Doncaster, UK. Equipment: Modified Canon 600D, Samyang 35mm, Polarie tracking mount.
Cygnus Widefield by Andrew Gray, Northumberland, UK. Equipment: Starlight Express 649 mono, Baader filters, Canon 28-70mm lens, NEQ6.
Cygnus Widefield by Andrew Gray, Northumberland, UK. Equipment: Starlight Express 649 mono, Baader filters, Canon 28-70mm lens, NEQ6.
Cygnus by Martin Bailey, Gnosall, Staffordshire, UK. Equipment: Modded Canon 600D, Astronomik CLS CCD clip filter, Canon ef 50mm, Celestron Advance VX mount, IMGOH CCD, 50mm scope.
Cygnus by Martin Bailey, Gnosall, Staffordshire, UK. Equipment: Modded Canon 600D, Astronomik CLS CCD clip filter, Canon ef 50mm, Celestron Advance VX mount, IMGOH CCD, 50mm scope.
Portrait of the Cygni Nebula Region. A five Panel Mosaic in Narrowband by Paul C. Swift, Valencia, Spain. Equipment: Vixen VSD100 f/3.8 Astrograph, Starlight Express SXVR-H18, Vixen VSD, sx loadstar, Baader Ha 8.5nm, Starlight Xpress USB filter wheel, Starlight Xpress Lodestar Guider, Baader Planetarium 36mm narrowband filters
Portrait of the Cygni Nebula Region. A five Panel Mosaic in Narrowband by Paul C. Swift, Valencia, Spain. Equipment: Vixen VSD100 f/3.8 Astrograph, Starlight Express SXVR-H18, Vixen VSD, sx loadstar, Baader Ha 8.5nm, Starlight Xpress USB filter wheel, Starlight Xpress Lodestar Guider, Baader Planetarium 36mm narrowband filters
Cygnus Wide-Field by David Slack, Prudhoe, UK. Equipment: Canon 1000D, Tamron 55-200 zoom lens, Astronomik CLS clip filter, HEQ5 pro mount.
Cygnus Wide-Field by David Slack, Prudhoe, UK. Equipment: Canon 1000D, Tamron 55-200 zoom lens, Astronomik CLS clip filter, HEQ5 pro mount.
Unfolding Space by Paul C Swift, Spain, Valencia. Equipment: Starlight Xpress SX-814 Trius, Vixen VSD, Ha 3nm x OIII 3nm SII 3nm
Unfolding Space by Paul C Swift, Spain, Valencia. Equipment: Starlight Xpress SX-814 Trius, Vixen VSD, Ha 3nm x OIII 3nm SII 3nm
Cygnus Red Nebulas by Rafael Compassi, Presidente Lucena, Brasil. Equipment: Canon T1i, 50mm Lens, IDAS HEUIB-II Filter, Star Adventurer
Cygnus Red Nebulas by Rafael Compassi, Presidente Lucena, Brasil. Equipment: Canon T1i, 50mm Lens, IDAS HEUIB-II Filter, Star Adventurer
Tickled Pink by Stephen Nickolls, Coverack, Cornwall, UK. Equipment: SkyWatcher Star Adventurer mount, Canon 600D, a Samyang 135mm f/2 ED UMC lens, BYEOS.
Tickled Pink by Stephen Nickolls, Coverack, Cornwall, UK. Equipment: SkyWatcher Star Adventurer mount, Canon 600D, a Samyang 135mm f/2 ED UMC lens, BYEOS.
Cygnus Region by Kevin Stewart, Alnwick, Northumberland, UK. Equipment: Modded Canon 1100d, 50mm lens @f4, iOptron Skytracker
Cygnus Region by Kevin Stewart, Alnwick, Northumberland, UK. Equipment: Modded Canon 1100d, 50mm lens @f4, iOptron Skytracker
Region Gamma Cyg by Mario Richter, Finsterwalde, Germany. Equipment: Canon 350d, Objektiv 200mm
Region Gamma Cyg by Mario Richter, Finsterwalde, Germany. Equipment: Canon 350d, Objektiv 200mm