Autumn and Early Winter Constellations

The beautiful Andromeda was the daughter of the Ethiopian king Cepheus and queen Cassiopeia. One day, the vain queen had bragged that her daughter Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids, the sea nymphs. The sea nymphs fell angry to hear that and complained to Poseidon, the god of the sea. A furious Poseidon unleashed the sea monster (or whale) Cetus to ravage the coast and devastate the land of Ethiopia in order to avenge the insult to his wards, the Nereids. The desperate king Cepheus appealed Zeus, who suggested the sacrifice of Andromeda as the only way to appease the wrathful Poseidon.

Our hero, Perseus, who was just returning via flying horse (Pegasus) from having slayed Medusa by cutting off that she-monster's head, found himself face to face with the beautiful Andromeda chained helplessly onto the rocks, awaiting her doom. Perseus immediately fell in love with the lovely maiden and promptly killed Cetus the beast. Some say that Perseus used Medusa's head to turn the sea monster into the Rock of Gibraltar. Interestingly, Medusa's head is identified as the star Algol in Perseus, a star who's Arabic name literally translates to "the Devil." Does this refer to the fact that Algol is an eclipsing binary star who's brightness fades dramatically for few hours every 3 days or so? Cetus contains a long-period pulsating variable star known as Mira which means "the wonderful." Is this another sign that the ancients knew about the variability of this star also?

Go to the 'Photos' tab to find a bigger version of this star chart.

Some interesting astronomical objects area iincluded within the boundaries of these constellations. The most famous of these is the Andromeda Galaxy, which can just be glimpsed without optical aid from a rural site on a moonless night. In binoculars, this is an obvious object, appearing as a glowing cloud that nearly spans the field of view.

Our hero, Perseus, also contains some interesting objects to look at. The central part of Perseus is a large loose grouping of young blue stars known as Melotte 20 that contains Perseus' brightest star, Alpha or Mirfak.

Between Perseus and Cassiopeia, is a great object for binoculars or telescope, but the unaided eye only sees a diffuse glow at that location. This object is, in fact, not one, but two star clusters, appropriately known as the Double Cluster.

The whole region of Perseus, through Cassiopiea to Cepheus, is studded with fainter examples of star clusters and a careful sweep with binoculars or a low-power telescope will reveal them to you. Why such a rich bounty? Star clusters like these reside within the disk of the Milky Way and the Milky Way passes through these constellations.

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Orion: the Hunter in the Winter Night Sky December 30, 2011 2:56 PM Roland D.
Trial by Fire: the amazing story of Comet Lovejoy December 18, 2011 11:53 PM Roland D.
Buying a Telescope for Astronomy October 16, 2012 9:29 AM Roland D.
Autumn and Early Winter Constellations December 1, 2011 7:05 PM Roland D.
Light Pollution Abatement in Calgary November 24, 2011 6:00 PM Roland D.
Astronomy Social Media in Calgary August 1, 2013 5:00 PM Roland D.
About The Calgary Astronomy Meetup Group April 7, 2014 12:02 PM Roland D.

Our Sponsors

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy