In this article, we’ll be sharing with you everything you need to know about the constellation of Scutum, including how to find it, deep space objects contained within it and how to use it to find other night sky objects more easily.

The Constellation of Scutum 

Scutum is one of the constellations that Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687) introduced in 1684.

Originally this constellation was known as ‘Sobieski’s Shield’ or ‘Scutum Sobiescianum’ in Latin.

The Sobieski in question was King John III Sobieski of Poland and he led an allied resistance to victory over the invading Ottoman Empire in 1683. King John III Sobieski became known as a savior of Western European civilization and Hevelius commemorated King John III Sobieski’s victory with this constellation.

King Sobieski also helped rebuild Hevelius’s observatory, which was destroyed by a fire in 1679.

Since Scutum’s origins lie in actual events, there are no myths associated with this modern constellation.

To help you spot Scutum, here’s what SkySafari 6 shows.

Scutum as shown by SkySafari
Scutum as shown by SkySafari. Click for full-screen.

The constellation of Scutum has an area of 109 square degrees making it the 84th largest (or fifth smallest) of the 88 recognized constellations. It is often depicted as a shield or diamond-shaped asterism of five stars.

The boundaries and neighboring constellations for Scutum
The boundaries and neighboring constellations for Scutum. Click for full-screen.

In the next section, we’ll show you how to locate this tiny constellation.

How To Find Scutum In The Night Sky

Scutum is part of the Hercules family of constellations and is visible to observers at latitudes between +80° and -90°. Observers in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres can see it in evening skies from June to November.

The constellation of Scutum is bordered by the constellations Aquila, Sagittarius and Serpens Cauda. Scutum overlaps a dense portion of the Milky Way.

Scutum at 10:00 p.m. on the 23rd of August
Scutum at 10:00 p.m. on the 23rd of August. Click for full-screen.

To find Scutum, do a naked-eye search for the Summer Triangle. This is an asterism made of three bright summer stars, Vega in Lyra, Altair in Aquila, and Deneb in Cygnus.

Identify Altair then hop ~8° southwest to Delta Aquilae, ~9° southwest to Lambda Aquilae and ~6° southwest to Alpha Scuti. You can measure these distances with your hand at arm’s length. More simply, identify the arrow-like shape of Aquila, the eagle, and it points directly at Scutum.

To find Scutum’s exact position for your location on any night, use software such as Stellarium (free) or SkySafari.

Scutum’s Brightest Stars 

Being a small constellation, Scutum only has a few stars brighter than magnitude five and easily visible to the naked eye.

See all seven of them in the star chart below, and read about them underneath that.

The brightest stars of Scutum
The brightest stars of Scutum. Click for full-screen.

Alpha Scuti (Ionnina) – This magnitude 3.84, orange giant is the brightest star in Scutum. It’s 175 light-years away from us and its name means ‘Of John’ in Greek.

Beta Scuti – This double star is the second brightest star in Scutum. The magnitude 4.23 orange giant primary is too close to its companion to be separated optically. This binary star system is 916 light-years away. 

Gamma Scuti – This magnitude 4.69 white main-sequence star is the fourth brightest star in Scutum. It’s 319 light-years away and has a mass of 2.3 Suns. Its diameter is 4.8 Solar diameters and it’s 1.5 times hotter than the Sun.

Delta Scuti – This variable double star is the third brightest star in Scutum and is 187 light-years away. The magnitude 4.71 yellow-white giant primary and its magnitude 12.20 blue secondary component are 14.4 arcseconds apart.

A third, magnitude 9.2 component, lies 52.2 arcseconds away.

Delta Scuti is a pulsating variable ranging in magnitude from 4.60 to 4.79 over 0.19 days.

Epsilon Scuti – The sixth brightest star in the constellation is another double and is 538 light-years away. The primary star in the system is a magnitude 4.90 orange giant. The secondary component shines at magnitude 14.60 and is 13.0 arcseconds away. This may be a multiple system. 

Zeta Scuti – This magnitude 4.67 yellow-orange giant is the fifth brightest star in Scutum. It is 207 light-years away from us, with a mass similar to our sun’s. However, its diameter is 12 times larger than our local star’s and it’s 18% cooler than the sun.

Eta Scuti – This magnitude 4.82 orange giant is 202 light-years away. Its mass is 1.2 Solar masses, its diameter is 12.6 Solar diameters and it’s 22% cooler than the Sun. 

Star Hopping From Scutum 

Scutum is too small and dim to be a good starting point for beginner star hops.

Objects To See Within Scutum 

Despite its small size, Scutum contains two Messier objects and one other deep sky object suitable for small telescope users. 

M11 (NGC 6705, Wild Duck Cluster) – This open cluster has a magnitude of 5.80 and an apparent size of 32.0 arcminutes. It’s 6,000 light-years away and is at right ascension 18h 52m 21s and declination -06° 14’ 23”.

M26 (NGC 6694) – This open cluster has a magnitude of 8.00 and an apparent size of 7.0 arcminutes. It’s 5,000 light-years away and is at right ascension 18h 46m 36s and declination -09° 21’ 34”.

NGC 6712 – This globular cluster has a magnitude of 8.10 and an apparent size of 9.8 arcminutes. It’s 23,000 light-years away and is at right ascension 18h 54m 22s and declination -08° 40’ 41”.

Summary

Scutum is the fifth smallest constellation and has only a few stars that are bright enough to see with the naked eye. However, it is home to some impressive deep sky objects, including the stunning Wild Duck Cluster.

Try looking for this dim constellation north of Sagittarius this summer or fall.

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