Could Pegasus really fly

In Greek mythology, the winged horse Pegasus was ridden by the hero Bellerophon to defeat the fearsome Chimera, a beast often depicted as being part goat, part lion and part snake. More recently, the steed appeared in the popular Disney film Hercules as a companion to the main character whose ability to fly helps Hercules become a true hero.

While often portrayed as having modest-sized wings, a paper by a group of students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy has calculated the minimum size Pegasus's wings would realistically need to be in order to fly.

If Pegasus was the same size and weight as a regular horse, the students suggest that a minimum wing size of roughly eight meters squared would be needed for flight - and if the wings were the same width as Pegasus's body length (roughly 1.5m) this would give a tip to tip wing-span longer than a double decker bus.

The results were found using a simplified model of flight involving the use of a ratio known as the 'Strouhal number'. This relates the speed at which a wing flaps to the flight speed and the height the wings reach. It was found in a separate study that all flying animals have a Strouhal number between 0.2 and 0.4.

The paper suggests that in order for Pegasus to have helped the heroes of Ancient Greece, it would need to have experienced a serious growth spurt in its body size or wing span.