Tonight – August 3, 2017 – 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. The constellation is fairly bright and can often be seen on a moonlit night, such as the one we’ll have tonight with a waxing gibbous moon in the sky.
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!
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. Cassiopeia circles counter-clockwise around Polaris, the North Star, throughout the night.
By the way, if you’re out before dawn, also look for the constellation Orion the Hunter to be in a recumbent position over the eastern horizon.
Bottom line: Find the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen in the northeastern sky after sundown. Depending on your perspective look for the telltale shape W or M.
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.