History of the Constellations

Stars and Constellations

Cassiopeia

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Contents of this page: | Description | Skylore | Modern Culture | Origin and History | Special Stars | Star Clusters | Submit new info... |

Images (at bottom of page): | Cassiopeia Chart: (Figure 1) | Hyginus, 1482, page D4v: (Figure 2) | Brahe, 1648, page 235: (Figure 3) | Brahe, 1648, page 236: (Figure 4) | Brahe, 1648, page tp: (Figure 5) | Bayer, 1661, page K: (Figure 6) | Bayer, 1697, page E1v: (Figure 7) | Bayer, 1697, page E2r: (Figure 8) | Bayer, 1697, page E2v: (Figure 9) | Bode, 1801, page l: (Figure 10) | Bode, 1801, page r: (Figure 11) | Aspin, 1825, page Cassiopeia: (Figure 12) | Images digitized by Hannah Magruder.

Constellation Data

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-PEE-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.

Skylore and Literature

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 film "Clash of the Titans."

In Middle Earth, Cassiopeia was known as Wilwarin (The Butterfly). (Rachel Magruder)

Modern Culture

Origin and History

Cassiopeia is included in the ancient star catalogs of Eudoxos of Knidos, Aratos of Soli, and Ptolemy.

Special Stars

Alpha: Shedir. 2.2.

Beta: Chaph. 2.3.

Delta: Ruchbah. 2.7.

Epsilon: Segin. 3.4.

Eta: Achird

Gamma: variable, 2.2 to 1.6.

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. (See images from Tycho with links at top.)

Star Clusters

M52 (Galactic cluster), mag. 8.2.

M103 (Galactic cluster), mag. 6.9.

Submit new info...

Many excellent websites provide a variety of information about constellations for amateur astronomers and telescope users (see sidebar links for a few of these). These constellation pages are not intended to duplicate those efforts, but are devoted to two aims: First, they are intended to assist the beginning skywatcher, including students in history of science survey courses, in becoming familiar with Basic Celestial Phenomena (BCP). Second, these pages are devoted to the history of the constellations and the history of astronomy. They are intended to serve as a repository for collaborative use and reference. Do you have additional historical information about the stars or constellation described on this page? Please submit additional information to kmagruder@ou.edu. Submissions will be attributed. Editors for historical information are Kerry Magruder, JoAnn Palmeri, Peter Barker, and Laura Gibbs.

Oklahoma History of Science exhibits: http://hos.ou.edu/exhibits/. Page revised 4/15/04

Bad links, misplaced images, or questions? Contact Kerry Magruder. Thank you.

"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown. But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile." R. W. Emerson, Nature

Images

Figure 1 Figure 1 - Return to Text

Cas Chart
Figure 2 Figure 2 - Return to Text

Hyginus, 1482

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Figure 3 Figure 3 - Return to Text

Brahe, 1648

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Brahe, 1648

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Brahe, 1648

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Bayer, 1661

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Bayer, 1697

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Bayer, 1697

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Bayer, 1697

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Bode, 1801

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Bode, 1801

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Aspin, 1825

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Exhibit credit: Kerry Magruder.

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These teaching resources provided by the History of Science Department at the University of Oklahoma.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries. Image Terms of Use.

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