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| Astronomy Essentials on Oct 14, 2014

Cassiopeia and Perseus in northeast on autumn evenings

In October and November, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, try looking northeast at evening for two prominent constellations, Cassiopeia and Perseus.

At this time of year, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, try looking northeast this evening for two prominent constellations, Cassiopeia and Perseus.

The easier to see will be Cassiopeia, which has a distinctive M or W shape, depending on what time of night you see it. This constellation represents a queen in ancient mythology. Cassiopeia is easy to identify and so it is one of the most famous constellations in the sky. You’ll see it in the northeast this evening, and higher up in the evening sky in late autumn and winter.

Perseus the Hero follows Cassiopeia the Queen across the night sky. As night passes, you’ll see them both ascending in the northeast – then arcing high in the north – then descending in the northwest – with Perseus following Cassiopeia all the while. Perseus is fainter than Cassiopeia and its stars are not so easy to identify. But if you have access to a dark sky, you’ll spot its graceful shape.

Algol: The Demon Star

Mirfak: Perseus’ brightest star

Cassiopeia, with Perseus just appearing above the treetops. This photo is from EarthSky Facebook friend Migizi Gichigumi in northern Wisconsin. Thank you Migizi! See the two, barely visible fuzzy objects between Cassiopeia and Perseus? They are H and Chi Persei, two star clusters you can pick out with binoculars. Click here to expand this image.

Both Perseus and Cassiopeia are considered to be circumpolar from northerly latitudes. In other words, as seen from northern parts of the U.S. and Canada, they never set below the horizon, but instead circle endlessly around Polaris, the North Star. Look for Cassiopeia and Perseus in the northern evening sky during the upcoming winter months.

Schedar: Brightest star in Cassiopeia