The Queen and Pegasus

Cassiopeia

To find Cassiopeia first find the Plough. Then draw an imaginary line through the Pole Star from the star that joins the handle of the Plough to it’s body. That will take you to the big “W” of Cassiopeia.

Cassiopeia was the wife of Cepheus, King of Ethiopia, and mother of princess Andromeda. She boasted that her daughter Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids. Poseidon, who was the Nereids father did not agree. So he sent a monster, Cetus, to terrorise the Ethiopian coast. When Cassiopeia and Cepheus consulted an oracle to find out how to get rid of the monster they were told to tie Andromeda to a rock for the monster’s dinner.

In a gross dereliction of parental responsibility Cassiopeia and Cepheus followed the oracle’s recommendation. However just in the nick of time along comes Perseus, rescues Andromeda and they all lived happily ever after… except for Cassiopeia and Cepheus: Zeus had them chained to their thrones and put them in the night sky to spin around the Pole Star for ever as punishment for their despicable behaviour.

Star Map of Cassiopeia & Pegasus
Star Map of Cassiopeia & Pegasus

Now get those binoculars out and check out these two star clusters in Cassiopeia:

Caroline’s Rose

NGC7789 is also known as “The White Rose” Cluster or “Caroline’s Rose” because when seen visually, the loops of stars and dark lanes look like the swirling pattern of rose petals as seen from above. It was discovered by Caroline Herschel in 1783.

Caroline's Rose
Caroline’s Rose
The Owl Cluster

NGC 457 is also known as the Owl Cluster or ET Cluster. It has two bright stars – the eyes of the Owl or ET, that can be seen staring back at you as you spy the cluster through your binoculars.

The Owl Cluster
The Owl Cluster
Pegasus

In Greek mythology Pegasus was a winged horse with magical powers. There are many stories told of his exploits: He helped Perseus slay the gorgon Medusa and Bellerophon to kill the Chimera. He was also the bearer of thunder and lighting for Zeus, the chief of the gods.

The constellation of Pegasus can be recognised from the “Square of Pegasus” – a large and conspicuous feature of the autumn night sky.

Messier 15 – A Globular Cluster

Right out on the western edge of Pegasus is M15 – a globular cluster. Globular star clusters are believed to be the remains of ancient galaxies cannibalised by the Milky Way. Some of them are almost as old as the universe itself.

Messier 15
Messier 15

Through binoculars M15 will appear as a small fuzzy ball of light. In reality it contains over 100,000 stars and is 12 billion years old. You can find it using the star map above.