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One of the most elaborate stories in the night sky offers love, vanity, a big dose of adventure, and a Hollywood-style rescue.
One of the characters in the story is Andromeda, the princess. Her constellation is in the east and northeast as the sky gets good and dark on September nights. It’s not all that bright, but you can find it by looking to the lower left of the Great Square of Pegasus.
The myth says that Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, the king and queen of Ethiopia. Cassiopeia was beautiful but vain — she boasted that she was more beautiful than the sea nymphs. So they went to Poseidon, the god of the sea, in search of vengeance. He sent the monster Cetus to attack Ethiopia.
To appease the gods, Cepheus ordered Andromeda chained at the ocean’s edge as a sacrifice. At the last minute, though, Perseus saved the day. He flashed the head of Medusa at the monster, turning it to stone.
The original story doesn’t include Pegasus, but modern versions do. They say that Perseus rode the winged horse when he fought Cetus — adding another player to a grand story in the stars.
Perseus is to the lower left of Andromeda during the evening. W-shaped Cassiopeia is to her left, with Cepheus farther to the left. Cetus is a couple of constellations to the lower right and rises a little later — a safe distance from the princess.
One of the treasures of Andromeda is the spiral galaxy M31; more about that tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012