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Cassiopeia

Star Lore

Cassiopeia is a bright constellation in the northern hemisphere. It is one of the 48 original Ptolemaic Constellations.

Ancient Babylon

In Babylon, Cassiopeia, together with a number of stars of Andromeda was part of the Babylonian constellation Stag.

According to Gavin White, the stag "... is frequently associated with the sun and the rekindling of fire sometimes it is even portrayed pulling the chariot of the sun instead of the more familiar horse. The constellation of the Stag rises just after mid-winter and is no doubt stationed in this region of the heavens to symbolize the rebirth of the sun after its winter-time death."

Click here, to see a map ob Babylonian constellations, compiled by J.H. Rogers.


Stag constellation drawn by the author.


Sources: J.H. Rogers: Origins of the ancient constellations, Gavin White: A brief guide to the Babylonian constellations

Ancient Greece

The Greek legend of Cassiopeia, Andromeda and Perseus inspired hundreds of plays, poems, novels, operas, songs and paintings and unites no less than seven classic Greek constellations: Andromeda, Perseus, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Pisces, Cetus and Pegasus (eight including the now obsolete Caput Medusae).

In Greek mythology, Cassiopeia is the queen of Aethiopia, wife of Cepheus and mother of Andromeda.

One day, Cassiopeia boasted that she and her daughter Andromeda were more beautiful than all the Nereids, the sea-nymphs Aegean Sea. That brought on the wrath of Poseidon who, in order to punish Cassiopeia flooded the Aethiopian coast and chained Andromeda to a rock to sacrifice her to the sea monster Cetus.

You can find an extensive account of the story of Andromeda and her rescue by Perseus in our Andromeda section.

Poseidon came up with one more - eternal - punishment for Cassiopeia. He placed her in the sky, chained to a throne and so far north, that she is doomed to circle Polaris and spend half of every night in an upside down position.

Details of the story vary and not in all depictions is Cassiopeia shown tied to her throne. In very early pictures she just sits on the throne, in later drawings she is sometimes shown holding a mirror as symbol of her vanity or with a palm branch.

Source: Wikipedia

Cassiopeia punished
Poeticon Astronomicon, 1482

Cassiopeia upside down on a 16th century celestial globe by Gerardus Mercator; Source: earthsky.org

Cassiopeia with a mirror
margheritacampaniolo.it
Cassiopeia with a palm branch
Urania's Mirror, 1824
Cassiopeia on her throne
Leiden Aratea, 816 AD

Europe

Norse Mythology

Richard Denning identified Cassiopeia as Ratatoskr.

In Norse mythology, Ratatoskr is a squirrel, sometimes depicted with a horn on its forehead.

Ratatoskr lives in the World Tree Yggdrasill and carries messages between the wise eagle nesting on top of the tree (represented by the constellation Aquila) and Nhggr, the dragon living in the tree's roots (represented by the constellation Scorpius).

Ratatoskr is mentioned in the Poetic Edda as the messenger between the two epic beings. Like many characters in Norse mythology, Ratatoskr is a trickster who takes pleasure in stirring up animosity between the eagle and the dragon by passing on made-up insults.

The only account of Ratatoskr as a Norse constellation comes from a star map designed by British writer Timothy Stephany. More research on the subject seems nessesary.

Source: Richard Denning: What did the Vikings and Saxons call the Stars?,

Ratatoskr
17th-century Icelandic manuscript.
Sources: Wikipedia

Welsh Mythology

The traditional Welsh name for Cassiopeia is Llys Dn, The Court of Dn.

In Welsh Mythology, Dn is the ancestor of a group of heroes known as the "Children of Dn." While there is no indication of Dn's gender in mythology, the figure is often associated with the Irish Mother Goddess Danu.

British sculptor John Toffee did extensive research on the association of the constellation with the (in his words) "shadowy matriarch Dn" but details are still sketchy.

Source: Wikipedia

Celtic mother goddess celticjackalope.com

Arctic

The W-shape of Cassiopeia is a very distinct feature in the northern skies. Not surprisingly people native to the Arctic regions associated the constellation with animals important to their culture.

The Smi people in northwestern Europe see elk antlers in the W-Formation.

Thousands of miles away, the Chukchi people in Siberia's far east see the five main stars as five reindeer stags.

Source: J.D.W. Staal: The New Patterns in the Sky: Myths and Legends of the Stars, p.17

Reindeer; juniqe.com

Middle East and Asia

aydi ath-thuraya - the Hands of Thuraya

Before Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi and other Arabic astronomers adopted Ptolemy's constellations, people on the Arabian Peninsula had their own way to navigate the sky, creating constellations like Lam, Ostriches and Vulture.

While working on her PhD at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Danielle Adams developed an excellent project called Arab Star Calendars to preserve the astronomical knowledge of the people of the Arabian Desert.

In this pre-Islamic Arabic astronomy, the Pleiades were known as Thuraya and an anthropomorphized figure, the Hands of Thuraya extend across a large amount of sky from Cetus across Perseus to Cassiopeia.

Danielle Adams' sketch of aydi ath-thuraya (Cassiopeia highlighted by the author)
Click the image to see the original in the Arab Star Calendars
The stars of what is now Cassiopeia formed al-kaf al-khadib (الكف الخضيب) - the Henna-Dyed Hand.

NGC 884 and NGC 869, two open star clusters (now assigned to neighboring constellation Perseus) are ssen as part of the hand. They are called washm al-misam (وشم المعصم) - the Tattoo of the Wrist.

Sources: Arab Star Calendars, R.H. Allen
Wikipedia adds that after the rise of Islam, the hand was sometimes seen as the bloodied hand of Muhammad's daughter Fatima.

Another Arabic interpretation of the stars of Cassiopeia is that of a camel. Drawings date back to al-Sufi. in Addition, R.H. Allen and E.B. Knobel both mention al-Tizini, a 16th century Syrian astronomer, who apparently called the constellation Shoter (شتر) which is Persian for camel.

Sources: R.H. Allen, Arab Star Calendar, Wikipedia

The Hand of Thuraya
2001 sketch by Roland Laffitte Source: atlascoelestis.com
Cassiopeia incorporated into a camel
Source: Bodleian Library, Oxford

Medieval Arab Astronomy

In the Persian and Arabic adaptations of the Ptolemaic Constellations, Cassiopeia was called al Dhāt al Kursiyy (ذات الكرسي), the Lady in the Chair. Al-Sufi depicted her as a queen on a chair, sometimes holding a crescent moon in her hand.

The depiction of Cassiopeia with a palm branch was adopted (and made pupular) in the
Alfonsine Tables where the constellation was described as habens palmam delibutam (holding the Consecrated Palm). R.H. Allen remarks "... how the palm, the classic symbol of victory and Christian sign of martyrdom, became associated with this heathen queen does not appear."

Sources:Wikipedia, Ian Ridpath, R.H. Allen

According to Wikipedia, both Al-Sufi and Ulugh Beg used the
name al Dhāt al Kursiyy also for the constellation's brightest star.

Officially, that star (α Cas) is named Shedar, coming from the Arabic word şadr (صدر), meaning Breast, indicating its position in the heart of queen Cassiopeia.

Source: Wikipedia

Cassiopeia in Al-Sufi's Book of Fixed Stars
Source:Bodleian Library, Oxford
The name Caph, (β Cas) goes back to the henna-stained hand al-kaff al khadib.

Source:Wikipedia

Ruchbah (δ Cas) is derived from the Arabic rukbah, (ركبة), meaning "Knee", indicating its position in the knee of queen Cassiopeia.

Source:Wikipedia

θ and μ Cassiopeiae share the name Marfak, derived from the Arabic al-mirfaq (المرفق), meaning "the elbow," referring to queen Cassiopeia.

Source:Wikipedia

Ancient India

Hindu mythology has its own version of the story of Andromeda, Cassiopeia and Perseus. In this legend, Cassiopeia is is the princess Sharmishtha, while Andromeda is personified as Devayani, daughter of the sage Shukracharya.

In the beginning of the story (see here), angry Sharmishtha throws Devayani into a well. Devayani is getting rescued by prince Yayati and the two are getting married.


Yayati and Sharmishtha; sivkishen.fandom.com

The Greek story ends with the rescue of the princess and her marriage. The Hindu story has a second part:

Yayati and Devayani are having two sons, but a while later, Yayati actually falls for Sharmishtha. He secretly makes her his second wife and they two have three sons. Enraged about the affair, Devayani's father Shukracharya curses Yayati with permanent old age. The curse can only be lifted of one of his sons trades his youth with Yayati's old age. After all of Yayati's older sons refuse, Sharmishtha's youngest son Puru accepts.

As a reward, Purubecomes Yayati's descendant and Sharmishtha is placed as a constellation in the sky.

Source: Wikipedia

Ancient China

In Chinese, Cassiopeia is written 仙后座.

In Chinese astronomy, the northern parts of the constellation form five asterisms in the Purple Forbidden Enclosure.

In the south, there are five more asterisms, belonging to two Lunar Mansions, located in the quadrants of the White Tiger of the West and the Black Tortoise of the North.

The two northernmost formations are Huāgi (華蓋) and Gāng (杠). Huāgi, centered around faint ψ Ca represents the Emperors gilded canopy for processions. Huāgi centered around fourth magnitude 50 Cas is seen as the Canopy Support.

Chinese asterisms in Cassiopeia
Map based on seasky.org

There are three more asterisms in the Purple Forbidden Enclosure, all consisting of very faint stars.

Zǐwēizuǒyun (紫微左垣), the "Left Wall" consists of 23 Cas and YZ Cas.

Chunshě (傳舍), the "Guest House" centers around 32 and 55 Cas.

47 Cas forms Wudnizu (五帝內座), the "Interior Seats of the Five Emperors".
The largest part of the constellation, including its five brightest stars are located in the Fifteenth Lunar Mansion, which is called Ku (translated by Wikipedia as "Legs").

Here, the largest asterism is Gdo (閣道), stretching from ε Cas in the north to θ Cas in the south, with δ Cas being located in the center.

Gdo, literally the "Flying Corridor" was seen as a pathway into the palace of the Purple Forbidden Enclosure.

A single nearby star, ζ Cas was called Fulu, meaning "Auxiliary Road." It was seen as an alternative route to the north. Fulu is one of a very small number of Chinese star names officially approved by the IAU's Working Group on Star Names.

Cassiopeia's brightest stars α and β Cas, together with κ, λ and η Cas and a number of fainter stars make up Wngling (王良) or Wang Liang.

Wang Liang was a legendary Chinese charioteer. Ian Ridpath tells a Chinese moral story about Wang Liang:

Wang Liang was asked to drive a carriage for a hunter called Hsi. But they failed to snare a single bird all day. Hsi returned from the hunt, complaining that Wang Liang was the worst charioteer in the world. Stung by this criticism, Wang Liang asked to try again.

This time, they bagged ten birds in just one morning. Impressed, Hsi asked Wang Liang to be his full-time charioteer. Wang Liang refused, explaining that on the first occasion he had driven according to the rules; the second time, he had cheated by driving into the birds to make it easier for Hsi to catch them.

He declined to drive for a hunter who was not honorable. He said: A man cannot straighten others by bending himself.
[End Ian Ridpath Quote]

Originally γ, η, α and ζ Cas were seen as a team of horses with β Cas being Wang Liang himself. Nearby κ Cas represented Wang Liang's whip, called Tsih or C (策).

Later, the name Tsih shifted to γ Cas

Sources: Wikipedia, Ian Ridpath

Gold Mountain Pathway, Guangdong, China
Source: Daily Mail

Wang Liang MnLvK

Ku, the above mentioned Fifteenth Lunar Mansion and its asterisms are located in the quadrant of the White Tiger of the West.
A number of faint stars in the west of the constellation, including σ, ρ and τ Cas belong to the Thirteenth Lunar Mansion, called Sh, the Encampment, which is located in the quadrant of the Black Tortoise of the North.

These stars are part of an asterism called Tngsh (騰蛇), the Flying Serpent. The larger part of this formation is located within the constellations Andromeda and Lacerta.

Source: Wikipedia
Flying Serpent; Source Chinese Bestiary

North America

Inuit

Greenlandic Inuit call the triangle formed by the three bright stars α, β and γ Cassiopeiae Pituaq, which is a lamp stand made of three stones (or wood or bones) on which a soapstone oil lamp is placed.

In Nunavut, the constellation is called Nikurrautiit, also meaning lamp stand.

Another Greenlandic Inuit constellation, incorporating the five bright stars of the W-formation and κ Cassiopeiae is called Ursuutaatiaq, which is an oil or blubber container. Inuit elder Suzanne Niviattian Aqatsiaq explains, that the container is made of seal skin. When seal skin is laid out to dry, it is usually place on its side with the fore-flipper (κ Cas) sticking out.

Sources: John MacDonald: The Arctic Sky: Inuit Astronomy, Star Lore, and Legend, starlab.com

Quileute

The Quileute in what is now the north of the US state of Washington tell a story of five brothers on an elk hunt. Four of them get tricked by a prairie man with magical powers to trade in their arrows. Then, the prairie man turns into a mighty elk and kills all four of them.

The youngest brother, however, has stronger magic skills than the prairie man, does not fall for his tricks and kills the elk, firing four arrows - one for each of his brothers.

The youngest brother then skins the elk and drives five stakes into the skin to stretch it. In the end, the skin turned out to be larger than the prairie, so, he threw it up into the sky. The five bright stars of Cassiopeia represent the five holes he punched into the skin.

Source: Stewart, Williamson; They dance in the sky: Native American star myths, p. 97

© Edgar Stewart

Navajo

In Navajo astronomy, the stars of Cassiopeia form the constellation Nhookòs Bid, the Female Revolving One. This constellation is the female partner of Nhookòs Bikà. She is a woman who exemplifies motherhood and regeneration. She provides growth, stability in the home and the strength necessary for harmony.

Instead of a bow and arrow, her weapons are her grinding stone and stirring sticks, which ensure that she will always be able to feed her family.

Sources: Navajo Skies, grandcanyon.org, Navajo Constellations

Nhookòs Bid © Melvin Bainbridge

Pacific

Marshall Islands

for the people of the Marshall Islands, the stars of Cassiopeia form the tail of a porpoise called Ke.

The brightest stars of Aries form the head, while the bright stars of Andromeda and Triangulum make up the body.

Sources: Wikipedia, Marshallese-English Dictionary

Possible outline of the porpoise
Drawn by the author based on
a map from thoughtco.com
On the island Puka Puka, the constellation Cassiopeia is called Na Taki-tolu-a-Mataliki.

Source Wikipedia

Modern Day

Tycho's Supernova (1572)

In November 1572, astronomers all over the world witnessed the appearance of a "new star" in the constellation Cassiopeia. The most detailed observation was done by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, which is why the phenomenon became known as Tycho's Supernova.

In 1573, Tycho published an extensive work on the Supernova, called De nova et nullius aevi memoria prius visa stella, "Concerning the Star, new and never before seen in the life or memory of anyone."

This is not exactly "modern day,' but it could be considered the beginning of modern time. Happening only 29 years after Copernicus' Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, the Supernova happened at a time when all of astronomy was changing. The appearance of a "New Star" seriously challenged the Aristotelian dogma of the unchangeability of the realm of stars.

Sources: Wikipedia, atlasobscura.com, Ian Ridpath

Tycho's map of the supernova in the constellation Cassiopeia
Source: Wikipedia


Gus Grissom's Star (1967)

When NASA started the Apollo program, astronauts selected a number of easily identifiable stars and marked them in their navigational charts.

One of the stars picked by Astronaut Gus_Grissom, selected as commander of Apollo 1 was γ Cassiopeiae. Jokingly, Virgil Ivan Grissom named the star Navi, being his middle name spelled backwards.

Grissom never had a chance to navigate by "his" star, as the crew of Apollo 1 was killed in an accident during a test just days before launch. The chart shown here was used by John Young, Command Module Pilot of Apollo 10 during NASA's second circumlunar mission.
The IAU has not yet approved a proper name for γ Cassiopeiae. Grissom's name Navi and the classical Chinese name Tsih are both commonly used.

Sources: Wikipedia

Navi in the navigational chart of Apollo 10
Source: NASA


The Pacman Nebula (1980s)

Classical star lore told stories about stars and constellations our ancestors observed with their naked eye. With the advance of telescopes, many more objects became "visible" and many of the objects discovered by the more recent generations of astronomers were named after things that were part of these astronomers' life.

The emission nebula NGC 281 was discovered in August 1883 by Edward Barnard but back then was described just as a very diffuse faint nebula.

Pacman
pngkey.com

Pacman Nebula
Chuck Ayoub

The telescopes of the Hubble-era allowed astronomers a closer look at the nebula, and soon, people noticed a resemblance of the object to the legendary video game character Pac-Man

The Pacman Nebula ist most likely the first astronomical object (informally) named after a video game.

Source: Wikipedia

NameExoworlds

The 2019 NameExoWorld project, in which each country on earth could name one star and one exoplanet, added new names for one star and one planet in the Cassiopeia constellation.

The star HD 17156 was named Nushagak as proposed by the USA. The Nushagak River is a river in southwest Alaska, famous for its wild salmon that sustain local Indigenous communities.

Planet HD 17156 b was named Mulchatna after the Mulchatna River, a tributary of the Nushagak River.

Source: IAU100 Name ExoWorlds: Approved Names
Salmon on the Nushagak River
Source: oregonlive.com

Modern Fiction

There are a number of novels and films titled "Andromeda" but most of them have little or nothing to do with the constellation or the Galaxy. For example, the novel and subsequent film The Andromeda Strain is about a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism.

For a list of artwork and literature titled "Andromeda" see Wikipedia.

Andromeda Nebula was a 1957 novel by Soviet writer Ivan Yefremov. The only reference to Andromeda, however was a radio message from the Andromeda Nebula. Other than that, the novel depicted "... a classic communist utopia set in a distant future. Throughout the novel, the author's attention is focused on the social and cultural aspects of the society, and the struggle to conquer vast cosmic distances." [quote: Wikipedia].

In 1959, the novel was translated into English as "Andromeda: A Space-Age Tale." It is considered one of the most significant works of Soviet science fiction. A film based on the novel was produced in 1967.

Source: Wikipedia

The TV series Andromeda, released in 2000 was based on on unused material by Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. The story takes place on board the star ship Andromeda Ascendant in a commomwealth spanning three galaxies, the Milky Way, the Triangulum Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy

Source: Wikipedia

1959 English edition of Andromeda: A Space-Age Tale
Source: Heritage Auctions

Season 1 DVD of Andromeda TV series
Source: Wikipedia

One of the short stories of the Foundation series by US-American writer Isaac Asimov takes place on Gamma Andromeda V, a fictional planet orbiting almach (γ And). Written in 1951, at the beginning of the nuclear age, the story describes a nuclear reactor meltdown killing several million people and destroying at least half the planet.

Source: Wikipedia

Foundation, 1951
Source: Wikipedia

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