Tonight, see if you can find the constellation Cepheus, which represents a King. This constellation is faint, but its distinctive shape makes it easy to locate if you look in the north on August and September evenings.
At nightfall Cepheus appears to the upper right of Polaris, the North Star. Then this constellation rotates around Polaris in a counter-clockwise direction during the night. It swings high over Polaris after midnight, and then sweeps to the left side of Polaris around dawn.
Cepheus resembles the stick house we all drew as children – and that children today still draw – with a square for the base and a triangle for the roof. In the case of Cepheus, the tip of the roof (a star known as Gamma Cephei, or Errai) points generally northward.
In the sky, “northward” always means “toward the sky’s north pole,” or toward Polaris. Thus the roof of the house in Cepheus is pointing mostly north, even though – as darkness falls – that means it’s pointing sideways and downward.
Sky chart of the constellation Cepheus the King
In Greek mythology, Cepheus represents a King of Ethiopia. To find Cepheus, you might want to locate a more prominent constellation, Cassiopeia the Queen. For more about Cassiopeia, see yesterday’s sky chart.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.