The Sea Monster

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The Sea Monster

Many of the myths of ancient Greece sound like they were written for Hollywood. There’s beauty, mystery, and treachery, with enough nasty monsters to occupy hordes of computer animators. One of the nastiest is Cetus, the sea monster, which crawls across the southern sky on November evenings.

His story begins with Cassiopeia, the queen of Ethiopia. She was beautiful but vain — she bragged that she was the most beautiful of all. That didn’t sit well with the sea nymphs, who were also great beauties. They asked their father, Poseidon, to punish Cassiopeia for her boasting. He did, by sending Cetus to destroy the kingdom.

Cetus often is depicted as having the head and front legs of a land creature, but the body of a sea serpent. And he was huge — big enough to flatten villages.

The oracles told King Cepheus that the only way to save his kingdom was to sacrifice his daughter, Andromeda. So he ordered her chained at the shoreline.

Just as the monster approached, though, Perseus the hero came to the rescue. Depending on which version of the tale you read, he either hacked the monster up or turned him to stone with the head of Medusa, another nasty creature. Either way, Andromeda was saved, and Cetus was banished to the stars.

The constellation is climbing into view in the southeast at nightfall, and is in full view an hour or so later. But it has few bright stars, so you need dark skies to see this giant sea monster.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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