Tonight – August 21, 2016 – look for one of the most recognizable constellations, Cassiopeia the Queen, which can be found in the north-northeastern sky after the sun goes down. This constellation has the distinct shape of a W, or M, depending on your perspective. This fairly bright constellation is oftentimes visible on a moonlit night. However, if the glare of tonight’s waning gibbous moon proves to be too overwhelming, try viewing Cassiopeia in another day or two. By then, you’ll have more moon-free viewing time after dark.
Sky chart of the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen
Cassiopeia is associated with a queen of Ethiopia. She is sometimes called the Lady of the Chair. Queen Cassiopeia was said to have offended the sea nymphs, or Nereids, by boasting that her own beauty was greater than theirs. It’s said that the nymphs appealed to Zeus, king of the gods, who caused Cassiopeia to be placed upon a throne in the heavens – but in such a location that, for part of each night, she appears upside-down!
Cassiopeia circles counter-clockwise around Polaris, the North Star, throughout the night. It swings high over Polaris in the wee hours before dawn. At that time, look for the constellation Orion the Hunter to be in a recumbent position over the eastern horizon. At this time of year, Cassiopeia the Queen is found fairly low in the north-northeast at nightfall but high over the North Star before dawn.