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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
Star Names
Their Lore and Meaning

Richard Hinckley Allen

as reprinted
in the Dover edition, 1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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 p373  Scutum Sobiescianum, Sobieski's Shield,

the French Écu, or Bouclier, de Sobieski, the Italian Scudo di Sobieski, and the German Sobieskischer Schild, was formed by Hevelius from the seven unfigured 4th‑magnitude stars in the Milky Way west of the feet of Antinoüs, between the tail of the Serpent and the head of Sagittarius. Heis increased this number to eleven. The title is often seen as Scutum Sobieskii or Sobiesii, sometimes as Clypeus Sobieskii, more correctly written Clipeus; but our astronomers follow Flamsteed in his plain Scutum.

It is pictured as the Coat of Arms of the third John Sobieski, king of Poland, who so distinguished himself in the defensive wars of his native land, as well as in his success­ful resistance of the Turks in their march on Vienna when turned back at the Kalenberg on the 12th of September, 1683. It was just after this, when he had made his triumphal entry into the city, that at the cathedral service of thanksgiving the officiating priest read the passage:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

Seven years subsequently this new constellation was named for him by Hewel, with a glowing tribute to his merit and heroic deeds; the sign of the Cross for which he fought being emblazoned on his Shield as we have it to‑day. Some identify this Cross, however, with that of the fighting Franciscan friar, Saint John Capistrano, famous at Belgrade in 1456, and now honored by a colossal statue on the exterior of the Vienna cathedral. The four stars on the border of the Shield are for the four sons of the king.

Although Scutum is a recent creation with us, it has long been known in China as Tien Pien, the Heavenly Casque, but in this are included some components of Antinoüs.

It comes to the meridian about the 10th of August.

It has no named star, — indeed the figure itself does not appear upon some modern maps, — and is chiefly noticeable from the peculiar brightness of the surrounding Galaxy; for within its boundaries, in five square degrees of space, Sir William Herschel estimated that there are 331,000 stars; and it is very rich in nebulae. Of these the notable cluster NGC 6705, 11 M., discovered by Kirch in 1681 and likened by Smyth to a flight of wild ducks, lies on the dexter chief of the Shield. This is just visible to the naked eye, and Sir John Herschel called it "a glorious object."

Just below the constellation is the celebrated Horseshoe, or Ω, Nebula, NGC 6618, 17 M., one of the most interesting in the heavens, although  p374 in small glasses it bears more resemblance to a swan seen on the water, whence comes another title, the Swan Nebula.

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Page updated: 4 Mar 14