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Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

See a story in the sky

Posted on October 25 2014 at 11:10:03 0 comments

Andromeda

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

A little story: A long time ago, King Cepheus and his Queen, Cassiopeia, ruled over an ancient land. They had a daughter, Andromeda, who they thought was the most beautiful girl in all the world (well, you know what dads are like about daughters!).

Unfortunately, they made the mistake of boasting to the god of the sea that Andromeda was more fair than any of his daughters. As punishment, the sea god sent a monster named Cetus to ravage the coast of their kingdom.

The only way to appease this sea monster was to sacrifice their little princess. So, she was duly chained to a rock in the sea, unclothed (presumably sea monsters hate the way linen sticks in your teeth!).

At this moment, a local jobbing hero, Perseus, just happened to be passing by and, remarkably, happened to notice Andromeda. Needless to say, he rescued the princess and married her and, no doubt, lived happily ever after.

This is just one of the stories enjoyed by the Greeks long ago before television was invented, and with no CRTs or LED thingies, they looked to the sky for the pictures. They are still there today, so let’s have a look ourselves.

Avoiding the full Moon on the 6th, face south east and look straight up. The brightest star nearly overhead is Deneb, sitting at the top of the cross that is Cygnus, the swan.

To the left can be seen a square and triangle of stars that make up Cepheus, and below him the “W” of stars that are his queen, Cassiopeia, are unmistakable.

Their beautiful daughter (the cause of all the trouble!) is not so easily seen, and is best found by locating the giant square of stars that is Pegasus (and that’s another story).

Two fairly indistinct lines of stars can just be made out trailing away from the top left-hand corner of the square.

This is Andromeda and she has a little secret – but you will need a good dark location to see it. Find the bright star in Andromeda, using the right-hand “V” of her mum, Cassiopeia, as a pointer. Above this is another star in the top line and upwards the same distance again is a faint fuzzy blob.

You will need good eyesight or a pair of binoculars to see it, but this is another galaxy and the most distant object you can see without a telescope. It is, of course, the Andromeda Galaxy and it is very similar to our own Milky Way but is now thought to twice as big.

Now, the sea monster is tricky to spot, but using the top right and bottom left stars of Pegasus, follow them down to near the horizon to find a rough line of stars leading to the brightest star in Cetus at the right-hand end, Diphda. In fact, the glow from Redditch may mean that this is the only star you can see.

Our hero Perseus is easier to spot, to the left of Andromeda with the bright star Mirphak at its centre. Just below it is the famous star Algol, noted for dimming for several hours every three days or so.

There you have it, a story in the sky. Don’t forget to keep an eye on http://www.heavens-above.com for the launch of Soyuz 41 to the ISS on the 23rd.


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