Altair (Alpha Aquilae) is the brightest star in the constellation Aquila. It is an "A" type or white star located 17 light years away from Earth (about 99 trillion miles), one of the closest stars visible to the naked eye. Altair, along with Beta Aquilae and Gamma Aquilae, form the well-known line of stars sometimes referred to as the shaft of Aquila. The name "Altair" is Arabic for "the flyer".

In the classic episode "Amok Time" of the original series of Star Trek, a system wide war finally brought together the populations of Altair-IV and Altair-VI and the Federation attempted to help stabilize peace by supporting the inauguration of a new president on Altair VI. Three starships, including the USS Enterprise, were to rendezvous here for this historic occasion.







Altair is also supposed to be the location for the famous Kobayashi Maru simulation at Starfleet Academy; that is seen in the movies "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" and J J Abrams movie "Star Trek".

Altair is actually most notable for its extremely rapid rotation; by measuring the width of its spectral lines, it was determined that its equator does a complete rotation in about 6 hours (various other sources give 9 hours, or 10.4 hours). In comparison, our star, the Sun, requires a little more than 25 days for a complete rotation. As a result of its rapid rotation, Altair is oblate: its equatorial diameter is at least 14 percent greater than its polar diameter.



An image of Altair from the CHARA inferometer, with grids to show its oblate shape and angle of rotation.