CacheCrazy.Com: Take Back the Sky: Cassiopeia

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Take Back the Sky: Cassiopeia

Picture this:

It's a cool, autumn night. You're sitting around the campfire, enjoying a Yuengling lager, relaxing with your good friends. "Hey, Dr. Spott," they say, "you're a pretty smart guy. Why not tell us about the stars?", barely containing their excitement. "Yes, you handsome rockstar, dazzle us with your knowledge!", exclaims your excited crush.

So, tell me: what would you do? Personally, my answer would be something to the tune of, "Well, there's... some kind of dipper....  probably big... and I think it's being held by a bear? And... uh.... planes... the moon..." and so on. 

Well fear not readers, cachers, outdoor enthusiasts, and lovers of knowledge. I present to you a new series: 


This week: Cassiopeia

Cassiopeia, or "the big W", is an easily recognizable and well known constellation, second only to the dippers. Visible year round to most Northern Hemisphere locations, she is most visible in November, making her a prominent autumn constellation.

The vain Ethiopian queen, so the myth goes, couldn't help but boast about her (and her daughter, Andromeda) beauty to anyone who would listen. Her claim, that she was more beautiful than the sea nymphs, ticked off a particular sea nymph spouse, namely the easily agitated Poseidon. (Small world, right?) As punishment, Poseidon tied her to a chair in the sky, rotating around the pole, upside down half the time.

This slightly disturbing (although, by Greek standards, fairly mild) story does provide a useful tidbit of information: Cassiopeia circles the pole!  She can be used to locate the North Star, even when the dippers might not be available. Randy Culp explains:

Cassiopeia is a Queen in her chair, and even though this isn't the "official" way to look at her, I envision Cassiopeia's head at the left side of the "W", making the figure like a lounge chair with a foot rest. This is how I learned it as a kid, and it's very useful because you can easily find the North Star by going "Up from the Seat" of Cassiopeia's chair, in similar manner to going "Up from the Cup" of the Big Dipper. Since the Big W is on the opposite side of the North Star, this gives you a way to find Polaris any time of the year, even now when the Dipper likes to hide below the tree line.
Cool, right? That will surely impress your smarmy friends. On exceptionally clear (both of clouds and light pollution) nights, you can see Cassiopeia sitting on the Milky Way, a mind-blowing view of our fantastic home galaxy.

For you extreme stargazers, pop over to the Constellation Guide for more information.  (For example, Cassiopeia contains two Messier objects, objects that look like comets, but aren't!)

So, the takeaway lesson here is twofold: don't piss off Poseidon (or his sea nymph wife), and up from the unofficial "seat" of Cassiopeia takes you to the north star. I highly recommend getting your friends lost in the woods at night to show off that knowledge.  

That's all for now friends. Until next time, keep your eyes on the sky!



AWESOME! I got into the stars during that last showing of Halley's Comet in 1986. I love the way you presented them and what a surprise to see your post!
Thanks, you made my day!
PS and I'm assuming that "This week: Cassiopeis" surly suggests a series?

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