Cassiopeia

StarDate: November 3, 2009

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


audio/mpeg icon

In mythology, there were lots of ways to get yourself placed in the stars. You could perform heroic deeds, or suffer a great tragedy. Or you could get there through less noble means. An example is Cassiopeia, the queen. She made it into the heavens by being vain and boastful.

Cassiopeia was the wife of King Cepheus of Ethiopia. She was blessed with great beauty -- and she wasn't afraid to talk about it. In fact, she boasted that she was more beautiful than the sea nymphs.

Bad move.

The nymphs convinced Neptune to unleash a sea monster against Ethiopia. The only way for Cepheus and Cassiopeia to stop the carnage was to sacrifice their daughter, Andromeda. So she was chained at the edge of the sea. At the last moment, though, she was saved by Perseus, who flashed the head of Medusa at the monster, turning it to stone.

Cassiopeia hadn't learned her lesson, though. When Perseus asked to marry Andromeda, she objected. So Perseus once more pulled out Medusa's head, turning his future mother-in-law to stone, too. Neptune placed her in the stars, atop her throne, but with one last bit of mischief. He arranged it so that part of each night she hangs in an undignified position: upside down.

Cassiopeia sits upright high in the north-northeast at nightfall this month. You're not likely to see a woman sitting on a throne, though. Instead, look for five bright stars forming a letter W -- a vain queen circling endlessly across the night sky.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

The one constant in the Universe: StarDate magazine

FacebookTwitterYouTube

©2014 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory