Starwatch Blog: Spectacular views of planets and mythological constellations this week


Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn 

Early in the night Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn will shine bright. You can catch the trio in the southwest sky just after sunset. This planets set very shortly after the sun does.

Saturn, Venus, and Jupiter in the southwest sky just after sunset.

International Space Station Flyovers for Johnson City, TN (NASA)

Viewing Queen Cassiopeia and King Cepheus in the Fall Night Sky 

The mythological story of Perseus and Andromeda begins with Cassiopeia, the vain and boastful wife of King Cepheus of Ethiopia (an ancient country bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea).  She is depicted in the sky as sitting on her throne.  The five brightest stars of the constellation form a distinctive “W” shape.  Look high in the sky to the east of north during the evening hours to view Cassiopeia.  If your location has a very dark sky, you will also notice the faint band of light, the Milky Way, running through the constellation. 

Looking North in the early evening hours.  Cassiopeia lies to the northeast with the band of the Milky Way stretching behind her from a very dark sky site. 


Looking North in the early evening hours.  The 5 bright stars in the “W” pattern outline the main features of the constellation Cassiopeia.

Cepheus long suffered in his marriage to Cassiopeia.  Her vanity and boastfulness led Poseidon, God of the Sea, to send the sea monster Cetus to prowl the shores of the kingdom.  Cepheus was too weak to challenge the sea monster himself and sought advice from the Oracle of Ammon.  To view Cepheus in the sky, look almost due north, above the north star Polaris in the early evening hours.   

Looking North in the early evening hours.  Cepheus lies above and slightly to the east of the north star, Polaris. 
The 5 brighter stars in Cepheus from a rough square and triangle shape.  This pattern is known as the “house” of Cepheus.   

Images created with Stellarium open source software; images and information courtesy of Dr. Gary Henson, ETSU Department of Physics & Astronomy 

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