cassiopeia

Cassiopeia

By Jake Riley, SR Senior Editor

Fun Facts

1. This constellation is named directly after the wife of Cepheus in Greek mythology
2. Symbolizes a ‘seated queen’
3. The constellation is one of the ancient constellations catalogued by Ptolemy
4. Hosts a supernova remnant within its boundaries
5. The Pacman Nebula lies within the confines of this constellation

An overview

The constellation of Cassiopeia makes up a simple ‘W’ shape that depicts a queen atop a throne, combing her hair. The constellation consists of 5 main stars, with the brightest being Schedar, which has a radius 40 times larger in diameter than our sun.

The constellation is one of the ancient constellations catalogued by Ptolemy, and is visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres, year-round in the former and in late spring of the northerly regions of the latter.

The myth

Cassiopeia was a well-known queen from Greek mythology, with her fame mostly stemming from her unrivalled vanity and arrogance that eventually led her to her downfall.

She was the wife of King Cepheus of Aethiopia, and the mother of the beautiful Princess Andromeda. One day, she had proclaimed to the female spirits of the sea that were famed for their beauty, that both she and her daughter, Andromeda, were more beautiful and radiant than any of the spirits could ever hope to be.

The nereids were furious, and passed on their displeasure at her prideful vanity to Poseidon. Upon hearing this, the sea god immediately sent forth a sea monster to destroy the whole of Aethiopia.

King Cephus, who was shocked at the sudden attack, consulted an oracle for guidance. The oracle advised that the King appease Poseidon’s wrath by sacrificing his daughter, Andromeda. Both Cephus and Cassiopeia accepted the oracle’s suggestion, and chained their daughter to a rock, and offered her up to the sea monster.

Fortunately, the hero, Perseus, managed to save the princess from such a fate. However, Poseidon, whose wrath was yet quenched, decided to send Cassiopeia into the heavens, where she would be placed amongst the stars on her throne for all eternity

The constellation

The constellation of Libra is situated in the northern sky’s first quadrant, and is visible between latitudes -20 to +95 degrees. It neighbors the constellations of Andromeda, Camelopardalis, Cepheus, Lacerta, and Perseus.

Of the 5 main stars it consists, there exists five celestial bodies of note: Segin, a blue giant 400 lightyears from earth with temperatures three times that of the sun; Ruchbah, a pair of binary stars with the larger of the two being a white subgiant four times larger than our sun; Gamma Cassiopeiae, a blue subgiant 50,000 times more luminous than our sun; and Schedar, the orange giant that makes up the brightest star in the constellation.

Want to learn about other constellations aside from Cassiopeia? Find out more about Andromeda or Cepheus. Alternatively, you can simply click here for a full list of constellations.

Frequently Asked Questions

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