As one of our well-recognized celestial bodies, Cassiopeia shines brightly from the skies above.
The name Cassiopeia is one most of us have heard in one context or another, more than likely in regard to the constellation that graces the sky in a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere.
There are quite a few things to know about this constellation including the namesake, how to locate it, and the stars that create its shape to name a few.
Cassiopeia Constellation Facts, Myth, Location and Stars
How to Identify The Cassiopeia Constellation
Cassiopia has a fairly distinct misaligned ‘W’.
It is created from the five brightest stars in the constellation, recognized as being made of 8 total stars.
You may also see the ‘W’ as an ‘M’ and you can locate it using the Big Dipper.
Use the two stars of the Dipper that point toward the Polaris.
Take the line of those stars and follow it to the other side of Polaris and there you will find Cassiopeia.
Cassiopeia Constellation Mythology
Cassiopeia is a figure from Greek Mythology.
She is known as the vain queen due to the story about her and her daughter Andromeda.
The story goes that Cassiopeia was married to Cepheus and bragged that she was more beautiful than the sea nymphs known as Nereids.
The Nereids were unhappy and complained to Poseidon who then deploys a sea monster to destroy the coastal kingdom.
The only way to save the kingdom, according to an oracle, to rid the kingdom of the monster is to sacrifice Andromeda, the daughter of Cassiopeia and Cepheus.
They prepare her for sacrifice, and she is saved by Perseus who says the monster and then subsequently weds her.
At the wedding feast a fight breaks out, and he uses Medusa’s severed head to turn the enemies to stone. Also turned to stone are Cassiopeia and her husband.
Cassiopeia is forever immortalized in the stars as the namesake for this constellation.
It resides in the sky near other constellations whose names are taken from the Greek myth, Perseus, Cepheus, and Andromeda,
Cassiopeia Constellation Location in the Sky
The location in the sky is designated as one hour right of ascension and 60 degrees north of declination.
These are the terms that astronomers use to map the night sky and serve as the equivalents of latitude and longitude.
The Hours refers to the 24 segments that each represent 15 degrees of the 360 degrees of the globe.
So Cassiopeia is one hour or 15 degrees to the right of the celestial equator and 60 degrees north of that.
Cassiopeia Constellation Size
This is one of the largest constellations in the heavens.
Cassiopeia is 598.4 degrees which is the equivalent of 1.451% of the sky.
This makes Cassiopeia the 25th largest constellation of the heavenly bodies.
It was recognized as one of Ptolemy’s original 48 constellations and has been also recognized as one of the 88 modern constellations recognized by the International Astronomical Unit.
There are 8 stars that the IAU recognizes as a part of the Cassiopeia constellation, though only 5 of the stars make up the main ‘W’.
The eight named stars are Archird, Ruchbah, Caph, Castula, Shedar, Segin, Fulu, and Nushagak.
The five that make up the main constellation are, from left to right, Segin, Ruchbach, Gamma, Schedar, and Caph, Shedar is considered the brightest star in the constellation and is 228 light-years away from us on Earth.
Where You Can See Cassiopeia From
This is a constellation that can be found in the Northern Hemisphere in the quadrant identified as NQ1.
It is visible all year round and can sometimes be seen upside down to look like an ‘M’.
The constellation circles the celestial pole which is why the inversion phenomenon occurs.
The ability to view Cassiopeia for most of the year in some places is due to its placement between the latitudes of 90 degrees positive and 20 degrees negative.
It is visible the entire year if you are located in a place that resides above the 34 degrees N latitude.
Deep Space Bodies
There are several well-known deep-space bodies that can be found in the constellation Cassiopeia.
These recognizable bodies are the Heart Nebula, the Soul Nebula, the Pacman Nebula, the White Rose Cluster, and the two open Messier clusters known as M52 and M103.
There is also evidence of an old supernova that is classified as Cassiopeia A.
These deep space bodies are all contained in the constellation.
And subsequently, the constellation Cassiopeia is found within the Milky Way galaxy.
This is probably the best-known galaxy for most people as it is the galaxy in which we reside here on our planet.
Cassiopeia is associated with two meteor showers.
The first is the Perseid Meteor shower, called such because it originates in the constellation Perseus, which resides near Cassiopeia.
First recorded in AD 36, this is a shower that is well known due to the number of meteors per hour that appear as well as its brightness in the night sky.
The second shower is a newly discovered event that was named the December Phi Cassiopeiids, which, unsurprisingly, originates closest to Cassiopeia.
This shower is fairly new to the astronomy community and not much is known about it, though it tends to appear in the month of December, for which it has been named.
This constellation has been known and identified in the sky since the time of the ancient Greeks and the philosopher Ptolemy.
It is still recognized as the same shape and with the same stars today as it was when he found it so very long ago.
Cassiopeia’s unchanged nature and beauty align well with the myth of the vain queen turned to stone, and for that we recognize and remember the constellation’s celestial beauty in the heavens.
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