Catch the Queen of the North

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 27, 2009 – 12:58 pm -

Big Dipper points the way to the Queen

Big Dipper points the way to the Queen

Start your evening off with some royal watching as Cassiopeia the queen of the night sky holds court high in evening skies. This lop sided, W-shaped pattern of bright stars is easily spotted high above the northeast horizon all season long. To track it down you can use the Big dipper which sits very low in the sky near the northern  horizon. using the 2 pointer stars of the bowl, , you can extend an imaginary line right through the North Star and on to Cassiopeia. 

According to ancient Greek mythology, Cassiopeia was the vain queen of Ethiopia who constantly boasted that her own beauty rivaled that of almighty Zeus’ own daughters. In retribution he condemned her to the heavens. Cassiopeia now sits on her star-studded throne, eternally circling Polaris – never to set below the horizon.

cassiop-clustersWhile the Queen’s five brightest stars appear to shine with similar brightness, some of their distances differ tremendously. The second brightest of the group, Caph, located at the right-end of the ‘W’ lies only 54 light years distant, while Gamma, the middle-star in the formation sits 650 light years from Earth.
Straddling the band of the Milky Way, the constellation is home to swarms of stars- making it worth sweeping the region with binoculars and small telescopes on any dark, moonless night. Two beautiful star clusters can be seen easily through binoculars. M52 contains about 200 member stars and is 5000 LY away, while M103 is a more loosely organized gang of stars about 8000 light years away from Earth.

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