Celestial Astronomy Series Part 1 : The Constellation, Cassiopeia


Keilianette DeJesus, Student journalist

A goddess in the night sky:

“When she was little, she’d liked to pretend that stars were really lights anchoring distant islands, as if she wasn’t looking up but only out across a dark sea. She knew the truth now but still found stars comforting, especially in their sameness. A sky full of burning replicas.” ― Lauren Oliver

Greek Myth:  Cassiopeia (Ancient Greek word Κασσιοπεια) exemplifies the seated queen of constellations of Greek Mythology who was named after a queen of a country in the northern coast of Africa, Aethiopia (not Ethiopia).  Cassiopeia was the wife of King Cepheus of Aethiopia and the mother of princess Andromeda. It was said “Andromeda, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia were placed next to each other among the stars as punishment after enraging Poseidon, the ocean god after Cassiopeia boasted that her daughter, Andromeda, was more beautiful than the Nereids.” 

Location: Cassiopeia lies in the first quadrant of the northern hemisphere latitudes above 34°n visible all year round shaped as a W or M by five bright stars, stretching 598 square degrees. Cassiopeia is the 25th largest constellation, and one that was listed  among 48 constellations by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy. Today, Cassiopeia is one of 88 constellations.

Regarding the naming of constellations:  Windsor High School science teacher, Ms. Pandey explains that.. “The historical perspective like how earlier people who did not have any technology were still grouping the stars into a system that they could identify and that they could use it to navigate from one place to another and use that information to tell the seasons and when the temperature could drop or rise. That is the historical piece that is fascinating to me..” 

From this writer’s perspective, looking up at the stars in the night sky is like looking through a lense of a mystical disney movie, dots of shimmer that appear in the sky compete to see who shines the brightest in the darkness–to gaze and let your eyes wander– to see what shapes you can make up with your imagination. 

On a starry night in the north “you may be curious to see cassiopeia is as beautiful as she thought herself…” 


Extra info: Right Ascension: 22.57 hours  Declination: 77.69  degrees Visible: between latitudes +90 degrees and -20 degrees Best viewed: During November, at 21:00 – 9 p.m.

Cassiopeia is visible when the sky is dark and clear and can do a complete rotation around the north celestial pole.

For more on this, read this linked guide on how to find the North Star.

Distances and the Stars:  Distance from the Earth to our nearest nighttime star, Alpha Centauri

is 4 Light Years. (a light year is the distance light travels in one year moving at 186, 123 mi/sec.) 

At that speed, Alpha Centauri –as calculated by Keith Carter– is 5, 869,574,928,000 miles from earth; 

At 5 trillion-plus miles (4 Light Years) away,  Alpha Centauri is our CLOSEST nighttime star. 

See Links Below: interview with Carl Sagan / Image on marine navigation