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Big Story

September 28, 2015

When the constellations were first drawn, they were more than just connect-the-dots pictures. Each one was a complete story — a tale of adventure, romance, or tragedy. And many of those stories overlapped — the tale of one constellation was tied to that of others around it.

The biggest of these multi-constellation tales plays out across the evening sky of autumn. It encompasses five constellations.

The story begins with Cassiopeia, queen of the mythological land of Ethiopia. She bragged that she and her daughter, Andromeda, were the fairest of them all — more beautiful even than the legendary sea nymphs. The nymphs were not amused; they asked the sea god, Poseidon, to punish Cassiopeia for her insolence.

So Poseidon sent the monster Cetus to destroy Ethiopia. King Cepheus consulted the Oracles, who said the only way to save his country was to sacrifice Andromeda. So he ordered that his beautiful daughter be chained by the coast to appease the monster.

Luckily for Andromeda, though, Perseus happened to be passing by at the time. He’d just slain Medusa, a monster whose head was covered with writhing snakes. One glance at the severed head turned the viewer to stone. So Perseus showed the head to Cetus, and the monster was no more. Andromeda was saved.

Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Cetus, and Perseus all climb up the eastern sky on autumn evenings — telling an ancient story in the sky.

More about Andromeda tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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