If you need some extra chills to go along with your trick-or-treating or other Halloween fun tonight, just look into the sky. It’s filled with ghosts, witches, and Gorgons — the snaked-headed sisters of mythology who turned anyone who looked at them to stone.
The Gorgons are four stars in Perseus, low in the northeast as night falls. The brightest of the four represents Medusa, one of the sisters. The other three arc to its right. The bright one is Algol, from an Arabic phrase that means “the demon’s head.” It may have received the name because it fades dramatically every three days or so — the result of a fainter star passing in front of a brighter one.
The Skull Nebula — the final gasp of a dying star — is in the southeast, in Cetus — the sea monster. And the Witch Head Nebula — a giant cloud of gas and dust — climbs into view before midnight, close to Rigel, the bright foot of Orion. It looks like the profile of the wicked witch in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Two nebulas are called “the Ghost,” and both are high in the northern sky. One is near the “house” outlined by the stars of Cepheus the king. The other is near the “W” outlined by the stars of his wife, Cassiopeia. Both are clouds of gas and dust. Part of the outline of the “kingly” ghost looks like demons with horns. And the outline of the “queenly” one looks like a ghostly sheet blowing on the wind — among the spooky sights in the sky on Halloween night.
Script by Damond Benningfield