Cassiopeia Constellation: Facts & Myths

When it comes to unrivaled beauty in a mythological text, the very first name that comes to our minds is Cassiopeia. This vain queen in the Greek culture is said to be one of the gorgeous women ever known to have existed. Today, a constellation of stars pays tribute to her elegance and enigma that has captivated the Greek mythology for millenniums. The constellation is named after this radiant queen and is one of the most interesting ones in the sky.

The constellation of Cassiopeia

The magnificent constellation is one of the 48 constellations that were listed by Ptolemy in the 2nd century. Today, it is a member of the family of the 88 modern day constellations. The distinct “W” shape is enough for an amateur too to identify Cassiopeia in the sky. Right opposite the Big Dipper, this constellation is easily visible all year round in northern hemisphere and from September to November in the Southern hemisphere. The Alpha Cassiopeiae, also called Schedar, is the brightest star in this constellation. The constellation is home to some of the brightest stars ever discovered and hosts many yellow hypergiants. The star Cassiopeia-A is one of the supernova remnants known in the sky and is a strong source of extrasolar radio waves.

The legend of Cassiopeia

Myth has it that the queen of Aethiopia, Cassiopeia, was the wife of King Cepheus of the same region. She was the mother of Princess Andromeda. Once she had annoyed Poseidon by saying that her daughter Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids. Poseidon took it as an offense as it implied that she was better than sea nymphs. This made Poseidon place her in the sky as a punishment. The punishment entailed her to circle the North Pole on the throne and thus, cling to it for half of the time so that she does not fall off.

Characteristics of Cassiopeia

The constellation can be found covering 598.4 square degrees, which translates to 1.451% of the visible sky. Cassiopeia ranks at 25 in the 88 modern day constellations regarding the area. Bordered by Cepheus at the west and north, and Andromeda to west and south, along with Perseus to the southeast and on the east by Camelopardalis, this constellation also shares the border on the west with Lacerta. “Cas” is the acronym adopted by the International Astronomical Union for this constellation in 1922. For people living north of 12 degrees South, this constellation is always visible.

Popular culture usage

The popular culture of our world has used Cassiopeia in various ways. The legendarium, Cosmology of Tolkien, this constellation has been equated to Wilwarin, the elvish butterfly constellation. Moreover, author C.I. Defontenay in his book, Star, has written about 9-foot tall humanoids on a heavenly body named Psi Cassiopeia.

The constellation is one of the most visible and one of the most sought-after ones in the world. This network of stars pays tribute to the ultimate beauty of the queen of Aethiopia who dazzled the world by her elegance and had a constellation named after her millenniums later.