Cetus – the whale

October 15, 2017


Cetus is a constellation that represents a whale. Remember “cetology” is the study of whales and dolphins and porpoises. The association between these stars and a whale goes way back. But then some ancient Greek astronomers came along and added the whole Andromeda-drama which involves a giant squidly sea monster known as the Kraken, so now days the stars serve a double function. Meanwhile there are a bunch of constellations lined up here along with Cetus that together form a group called “The Sea” because they are all water-ish; Eridanus (river), Pisces (fishes), Piscis Austrinus (more fishes), Capricornus (fishy-goaty), and Aquarius (the water dude).

The northern border of Cetus is very close to the ecliptic, the yearly path of the Sun against the stars. It’s so close to that line, that on March 14 (more or less depending on leap year) the sun’s disk actually sticks its ass-end down into Cetus. So that’s cool. Likewise the moon and planets often wander through Cetus because the solar system isn’t perfectly flat. The asteroid Vesta was discovered in Cetus in 1807.

There is a large chunk of the universe in the direction of Cetus that appears to be rather empty. It’s known as the Cetus Void. It’s like a deep cosmic abyss. I think the Kraken is down there. Try not to release him.

Mira is a famous star here. The name means “Wonderful.” It was the first variable star to be discovered. Over a period of 332 days it brightens to an apparent magnitude of 3 which is rather bright to the naked eye. At its dimmest it drops down to a 10, which is impossible to detect with any naked body part.

M77 is a barred spiral galaxy and it is also a Seyfert galaxy, which means the central district is rather active even on weekdays.

Menkar is the common name for the star designated Alpha Ceti. The name means “nose hole.” In the Star Trek universe this star has a couple of notable planets, Ceti Alpha V and Ceti Alpha VI.

Captain Kirk marooned Kahn and his motley crew to Ceti Alpha V but then later Ceti Alpha VI exploded causing life on Ceti Alpha V to suck.

Kirk didn’t know about this development, even though it was a Starfleet experiment that caused the explosion in the first place. You know how those scientists are always losing their notes. Or maybe in the 24th century peer review has become a slow and brutal process plagued with politics and gender bias, unlike the efficient and fair process we have today.

Carpe Noctem

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