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Constellations: Cassiopeia - Windows to the Universe

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Cassiopeia, the Queen.
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Cassiopeia

Cassiopeia was the wife of King Cepheus. She was very pretty, and would often boast that she and her daughter were more beautiful than the sea nymphs, the Nereids. They complained to Poseidon, who unleashed a monster onto Cepheus' land. In order to save their country, the king and queen sacrificed their daughter, Andromeda. Just before the monster, named Cetus, ate the princess, Perseus saved her. All five figures are represented in the sky as constellations.

Cassiopeia has a very distinct shape. She looks like a "W" or "M" in the sky, depending on where she is. Some legends say that Cassiopeia was chained into the sky and sometimes hangs upside-down to remind others not to be so boastful.

Cassiopeia is a northern circumpolar constellation, so it can be viewed all year long. The constellation is made of several variable stars, which change in magnitude throughout time. It is also home to several clusters, or groups of stars. One in particular, M52, consists of hundreds of stars. It can be found on the Western edge.

With the help of a telescope, many distant objects can be spotted. There are two planetary nebulae within Cassiopeia, one being the Bubble Nebula. A few diffuse nebulae are also present, an example being IC 1805. This nebula is located just to the east of the constellation. Finally, a number of galaxies can be spotted, including NGC 185, which is a small distance south of the "W".

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF