Cassiopeia – the queen

November 5, 2017

Astronomy

The constellation Cassiopeia rises high in the autumn sky and represents the very beautiful queen of ancient Ethiopia. By all accounts men were mesmerized by her perfectly chiseled features, like she had really nice thighs and stuff. But this was before selfies so she spent most of her time sitting in a “W” shaped chair gazing at her own face in a mirror, bragging about her high cheek bones.

She proclaimed herself to be even more beautiful than the Nereids, which were sea nymphs. That was a bit much because everyone said the sea nymphs were smokin’ hot. Even land nymphs said so. Poseidon was proud of the sea nymphs. He was was married to one, Amphitrite. Poseidon demanded that Cassiopeia be punished.

This was said, that was said, and so on until finally the Kraken got released. Cassiopeia decided that to save her town she would have to feed the lovely princess Andromeda to the hideous squiddly sea monster. That’s how things were done in those days. It paid to have a few spare daughters around. So Andromeda was chained to a rock where the Kraken couldn’t miss her, right out front by the boat docks, with a big sign that said “Take the girl, leave us alone.”

Andromeda had a new boyfriend named Perseus who killed the Kraken and rescued her as part of a whole series of crazy adventures. Cassiopeia plotted with Andromeda’s ex-boyfriend to kill Perseus, for business reasons, nothing personal. But eventually Perseus used the Medusa’s head to turn Cassiopeia and a bunch of the other mean people into stone.

In Celtic starlore the celestial “W” represents Anu, mother of all the gods. In County Kerry Ireland there are two small mountains called the “Paps of Anu” which means “Anu’s Boobs.”

Star hoppers have lots of fun stuff to seek out in Cassiopeia. For instance there is the the Heart Nebula, the Soul Nebula, the Pacman Nebula and tons of other junk because you are looking at the crowded outer rim of our galaxy here. Beyond that is the void of intergalactic space, the expanse, the big empty.

Two members of our Local Group of galaxies are in Cassiopeia, NGC 185 and NGC 147. They are both dwarf satellite galaxies orbiting around the Andromeda Galaxy. In space little things go around big things and galaxies are no different.

Messier 52 is an open cluster of young stars in Cassiopeia. It is approximately 5,000 light years away, in other words rather close, only a couple of bus stops down the galactic highway.

Messier 103 is another open cluster in Cassiopeia. It is approximately 10,000 light years away, four or five bus stops away. It was the last object Charles Messier entered into his catalog of 110 objects. That’s right, 103 is the last of 110, but then the 110 is really only 108 objects so I guess 103 is last of 108, which is no less confusing.

Gamma Cassiopeiae is a star that rotates very rapidly and thus bulges in the middle. A disk of escaping gas forms around it causing strong variations in the star’s brightness. The star is well known to NASA astronauts who call it “Navi,” a moniker coined by astronaut Virgil Ivan Grissom (Navi = Ivan backwards). The star has been used as a navigational reference point by space-faring astronauts.

If you went to Alpha Centauri and looked back, the sun would appear in Cassiopeia.

Carpe Noctem

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