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All About The Perseus Constellation

The Perseus constellation is the largest constellation in the northern sky and the 24th largest constellation in the entire sky. It was first discovered by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the second century. It is among the 88 modern constellations defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). This constellation is named after the Hero Perseus in Greek methodology. The Chinese call it "The White Tiger of The West" or "The Brave god Constellation." The Perseus is depicted as Perseus holding the head of Medusa in one hand and a jeweled sword in the other.

Where Is The Perseus Constellation?

The first quadrant of the sky, NQ1, hosts the Perseus constellation between latitudes +90o and -35o. The constellation occupies 615 square degrees and is situated right next to Andromeda- Perseus' wife. The happy couple neighbors King Cephus and Queen Cassiopeia, Cetus the sea monster, and Pegasus the winged horse constellation.

Perseus Constellation

By Till Credner - Own work: AlltheSky.com

Major Stars Of The Perseus Constellation:

Mirfak (Alpha Persei):

The Alpha Persei is not just the brightest star of the Perseus constellation but also one of the brightest stars in the entire sky! It has a visual magnitude of 1.806 and is 510 light-years away from the earth. The supergiant is 7.3 times heavier, 66 times bigger, and 5000 times brighter than the sun.

Algol (Beta Persei):

Also known as the "Demon Star," the Algol is one of the best-known stars. It was the first binary star as well as the first variable star to be discovered. The triple star system has an apparent magnitude of 2.1 but drops to 3.4 every two days, 20 hours and 45 mins, and then stays like that for almost 10 hours. It is 92.8 light-years distant and emits x-rays and radio waves.

Atik (Mehkib) (Zeta Persei):

This blue-white supergiant of the Perseus constellation is 47000 times brighter than the sun at a magnitude of 2.86 and is around 750 light-years away.

Gamma Persei:

This double star is the 4th brightest star of the Perseus constellation, with a visual magnitude of 2.93. It is 243 light-years away from us.

Gorgonea Tertia (Rho Persei):

The 440 M-year-old Gorgnea Tertia is named in reference to the myth of Perseus and the Gorgons. It represents the head of the Gorgon Medusa and is even visible to the naked eye! It is a semiregular, variable star that has a magnitude between 3.3 and 4, which makes it 2290 times more luminous than the sun.

Miriam (Eta Persei):

The Miriam of the Perseus constellation is 35000 times brighter than the sun at a magnitude of 3.76 and is 1331 light-years distant.

Issam (Kappa Persei):

This triple star system is 112 light-years away from our solar system.

Atik-o Persei (Omicron Persei):

Does the Omicron ring a bell?

Maybe because it's featured in loads of sci-fi series like the Transformers, Star Trek, and many more!

The Omicron is a spectroscopic double star called 'Al-Atik' in Arabic, which translates to 'the shoulder.' This star is 1000-1600 light-years away from the earth with a visual magnitude of 3.83.

Menkib (Xi Persei):

The Menkib of the Perseus constellation is a blue giant at a magnitude of 4.042. It is 1800 light-years away from us and is one of the hottest naked eye stars with a surface temperature of 37000K.

Deep-Sky Objects Of The Perseus Constellation:

The Perseus constellation is home to a variety of deep-sky objects, including two meteor showers- the Perseids and the September Perseids. It also has many star clusters, two messier objects, nebulae, and a cluster of galaxies that we call the "Perseus Cluster." Some other objects are the 3C 83.1B, NGC 1333, NGC 1260, and the NGC 1058.

Perseid Meteor Shower:

The Perseid meteor shower is definitely one of the best-known meteor showers of all time! It appears every summer from mid-July to late-August. The shower seems to originate from the Perseus constellation and is thus, called the Perseids shower. You can see almost 60 to 100 meteors falling per hour across the night sky during peak time.

Perseus Cluster:

The Perseus constellation is a cluster of thousands of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in the whole universe! It is almost 240M light-years away from us and has a supermassive black hole at its center. Recent research suggests that dark matter within the cluster is both absorbing and emitting x-rays simultaneously.

Double Cluster (Double Caldwell 14):

These are two very bright clusters, NGC 884 and NGC 869- 7600 and 6800 light-years away from the earth. They are relatively close to each other and have a combined visual magnitude of 4.3 which means they can be seen even without binoculars. This double cluster represents the jeweled handle of Perseus' sword.

Alpha Persei Cluster:

This open cluster has several blue stars, with the brightest being the Mirfah, Delta, and Epsilon. It is 50-70M years old and at a distance of approximately 650 years from the solar system. The Alpha Persei Cluster has an apparent magnitude of 1.2.

Perseus Molecular Cloud:

This giant molecular cloud is not very bright but is almost 600 light-years distant.

Messier 34 (M34, NGC 1039):

The Messier 34 is a 200-250 M-year-old open cluster that contains over 400 stars. It has a visual magnitude of 5.5 and is at a distance of 1500 light-years from the solar system.

Little Dumbbell (Messier 76, NGC 650 & NGC 651):

This planetary nebula was assigned two different catalog numbers because it was initially considered two different emission nebulae instead of just one! It has a magnitude of 10.1 and is 2500 light-years from the earth. It is also called the "Cork Nebula" or the "Barbell Nebula."

California Nebula (NGC 1499):

This emission nebula is named the ‘California’ due to its resemblance with the map of California. It is 1000 light-years distant and has a magnitude of 6.

Perseus A-NGC 1275 (Caldwell 24):

This emission nebula is named the ‘California’ due to its resemblance with the map of California. It is 1000 light-years distant and has a magnitude of 6.

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Perseus Constellation – Associated Mythology:

The Perseus constellation is one of six constellations associated with the myth of Perseus, the hero. Perseus was the son of Danaë and the grandson of King Acrisius of Argos. A prophecy dictated that King Acrisius would die at the hands of his own grandson, so he locked up Danaë in a dungeon. However, Zeus fell in love with Danaë and impregnated her when he came to her in the form of golden rain. When Perseus was born, he and his mother were locked in a chest and cast to sea.

But Danaë prayed to Zeus, and he saved them, so the chest washed ashore, and a fisherman named Dictys took them both in as his own family. Unfortunately, Dictys' brother, King Polydectes of Seriphos, wanted Danaë for himself. To get Perseus out of the way, he sent him on a quest to get Medusa's head. Medusa was one of the three hideous Gorgons that could turn people into stone just by a mere stare! Perseus took help from Athena, Hephaestus, Hades, and Hermes in Olympus and using a bronze shield, helmet of invisibility, sword of the diamond, and winged sandals. He managed to sneak in and behead Medusa.

Perseus also rescued Princess Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus- both of whom are his constellation neighbors in the sky. Perseus also rescued his mother and Dictys and turned Polydectes to stone. Eventually, he killed King Acrisius with a discus and thus fulfilled the prophecy- though it was an accident.

Follow The Cassiopeia!

The Perseus constellation follows Cassiopeia is a great arc. The Perseus constellation is fainter yet very graceful. On a dark winter evening in the northern hemisphere, the Queen Cassiopeia is very easy to spot as an M or W shape in the sky. Just follow the queen's constellation to find the grand Perseus and marvel at the beautiful constellation with probably the most gruesome backstory in all of history!

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