Intro and Visual description
Trace an imaginary line from the Big Bear’s pointers on past Polaris. At an equal distance on the opposite side from the Big Dipper is Cassiopeia (KASS-ee-oh-PAY-uh), an ancient Queen of Ethiopia.
As she sits on her W-shaped throne she circles round and round the pole. Like the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia is circumpolar and therefore visible no matter what the season or time of night. In the fall Cassiopeia is in the shape of a W and in the Spring she is in the shape of a M.
Origin and History
Cassiopeia is included in the ancient star catalogs of Eudoxos of Knidos, Aratos of Soli, and Ptolemy.
In 1572 a star in Cassiopeia that previously was too faint to see flared up as bright as Venus, remaining for about a year and a half, first white and then reddish in color, before fading away. Observed by many at the time, even in daylight, it has become known as Tycho’s (TEE-koze) nova, after the Danish astronomer and alchemist Tycho Brahe (BRA-hee), arguably the foremost astronomer of that generation. Tycho’s Star is one of only four supernovae ever observed in the Milky Way galaxy.
Skylore, Literature and Culture
Wife of king Cepheus, mother of Andromeda. When Cassiopeia objected to the wedding of Perseus and Andromeda, Perseus displayed the head of Medusa, which he had concealed in his travel bag. As a result, his enemies, including Cassiopeia, were turned into stone. Neptune placed Cassiopeia in the heavens, but in order to humiliate her, he arranged it so that at certain times of the years she would appear to be hanging upside down. For the story of Andromeda and Perseus, see the old film "Clash of the Titans."
In Middle Earth, Cassiopeia was known as Wilwarin (The Butterfly). (Rachel Magruder)