Cassiopeia

StarDate: October 3, 2011

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Characters in Greek mythology never seemed to learn that it was a bad idea to disrespect the gods. As an example, consider Cassiopeia, the queen of Ethiopia, whose vanity led to all kinds of trouble — and eventually got her placed in the stars.

Cassiopeia was a great beauty, but her trouble started when she boasted that she was more beautiful than a group of sea goddesses known as the Nereids. They didn’t like the put-down at all, and plotted revenge.

One of them was married to the sea god Poseidon. As a punishment, he sent the sea monster Cetus to ravage the coast of Ethiopia. To appease him, Cassiopeia and her husband, King Cepheus, chained their young daughter Andromeda at the seashore as a sacrifice.

Before Cetus could get her, though, she was rescued by Perseus, who killed the monster. Perseus and Andromeda were married and, according to most versions of the tale, lived a long and happy life.

Cassiopeia’s punishment wasn’t over, though. The gods placed her in the sky, where she wheels around the North Star. Part of the time she sits upright, but part of the time she hangs upside down — one final indignity for disrespecting the gods.

Look for Cassiopeia well up in the northeast at nightfall. She’s easy to find because her brightest stars form a bright letter W. The constellation wheels high across the north in the hours after midnight.

We’ll talk about one of Cassiopeia’s most remarkable stars tomorrow.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011

 

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