Mythology Behind The Perseus Constellation



When you view the Perseus constellation remember the Greek mythological hero it represents.

As a baby Perseus and his mother Danae were sealed in a large chest and cast into the ocean by his grandfather King Acrisius.

The Oracle of Apollo told Acrisius that Danae's child would one day kill him.

To prevent this Danae was locked away and not allowed to marry. But Zeus disguised himself as a shaft of golden sunlight and visited Danae in her locked tower prison.

After the birth of Perseus, from the union of Danae and Zeus, Acrisius sent them away, remembering the prophecy.

Winding up in the land of Seriphus mother and child were taken in by King Polydectes.

Years later Polydectes fell in love with Danae and wanted to marry her. Perseus being very protective of his mother tried to keep the two apart.

Danae eventually agreed and Polydectes declared that everyone in the kingdom must give them a present.

Young, handsome, strong Perseus had no money and couldn't afford a gift King Polydectes was furious.

Polydectes thought he could get rid of Perseus and sent him on an impossible task.

Triumphs of Perseus

King Polydectes told Perseus that to make amends he would have to bring the king the head of the Gorgon Medusa.

The Medusa had the power of turning whoever or whatever it looked at into stone.

Using special gifts given to him by the Gods, Perseus was able to slay the Medusa by looking at the reflection of it in his shield, like a mirror, and chopping off the head.

It is said that the winged horse Pegasus was born from the neck of the slain Medusa.

Returning to Seriphus with the head sealed inside a sack, Perseus saw Atlas struggling to hold the world on his shoulders.

Perseus used the Medusa head to turn Atlas into stone and ease his burden.

Perseus then saw the beautiful Princess Andromeda awaiting her fate from the seamonster Cetus.

Perseus uses the Medusa head and turns Cetus to stone. Cutting Andromeda free, Perseus returns her to her home and eventually marries her.

After returning to his birthplace, the kingdom of Argos, Perseus fulfills the prophecy of the Oracle and accidentally kills his grandfather King Acrisius with a discus.

perseus constellation stars perseus constellation with outlines

Views Of The Perseus Constellation

Position in the Sky

Right Ascension: 3 hours

Declination: 45 degrees

Visible between latitudes 90 and -35 degrees

Best seen in December (at 9:00 PM)

Named Stars: MIRPHAK (Alpha Per) ALGOL (Beta Per) Miram (Eta Per) Menkib (Xi Per) Atik (Omicron Per) Gorgonea Secunda (Pi Per) Gorgonea Tertia (Rho Per) Gorgonea Quarta (Omega Per)

Algol is known as the "demon star". It is probably the most famous star in the Perseus constellation.

Algol means "the ghoul" in Arabic. Think of Ra's Al Ghul from Batman(comics and movies).

Double clusters NGC869 and NGC884 make for excellent views in both binoculars and telescopes. Both are just over 7000 light years away.

Open cluster M34 is a good sight for binoculars and even better in a telescope using low magnification.

M76 is a planetary nebula known as the "little dumbell" nebula.

Within NGC1260 is the second brightest object seen in the universe, SN2006gy. SN stands for SuperNova.

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