05 July 2021

Fun Facts

1. The constellation is named after the mythical King of Greek mythology
2. Hosts two of the largest known stars in the Milky Way
3. It is the 27th largest constellation in the night sky
4. The Wizard and Iris Nebula, and the Fireworks Galaxy exist within its confines
5. The constellation is part of the Perseus group of constellations

An overview

The constellation of Cepheus makes up, amusingly, the stick house that we’ve more than likely drew as children, though it supposedly depicts a robed king with a crown of stars. The constellation consists of 7 main stars, with the brightest being Alderamin, otherwise known as Alpha Cephei.

The constellation is one of the ancient constellations catalogued by Ptolemy, and is mainly visible in just the northern hemisphere, most apparently in the month of November.

The myth

In Greek mythology, when Andromeda and Perseus were getting married, Phineus, who was Cepheus’ brother, turned up and claimed that Princess Andromeda was promised to him before his brother.

Phineus and his followers thus requested that Andromeda be given over to them, but the princess’ father, King Cepheus, refused their request. A fight thus broke out, with Phineus and his men outnumbering their opponents.

In a desperate attempt to fight off all his opponents, the hero Perseus used the head of Medusa to turn his enemies into stone. Unfortunately, King Cepheus had not the time to avert his gaze, and was turned to stone with them as well.

Perseus asked the gods to immortalize his wife’s father in the night sky, thereby birthing the constellation of Cepheus.

The constellation

The constellation of Cepheus is situated in the northern sky’s fourth quadrant, and is visible between latitudes +90 to -10 degrees. It neighbors the constellations of Camelopardalis, Cassiopeia, Cygnus, Draco, Lacerta, and Ursa Minor.

Of the 7 main stars it consists, there exists three celestial bodies of note: Alderamin, its brightest star, which Arabic name directly translates as ‘the right arm’; Delta Cephei, a double-star system 891 lightyears away from our solar system; and Gamma Cephei, an orange subgiant believed to be 6.6 billion years old.

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

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