Sunday, October 26, 2008
A Heavenly Love Story
Like the mighty warrior Perseus, I am totally infatuated with the lovely Andromeda our neighboring galaxy.
It is believed that this galaxy may have been observed by Persians as early as 905 AD. Charles Messier was the first to catalog it as "Messier 31" in 1764. He was, at the time, unaware of its earlier sightings. Neighborliness, in this case, is a distance of 2.9 million light years between Earth and Andromeda. Just think how far back in time the Persians were looking when they saw Andromeda in the 10th Century AD. Click on the light year link above to learn about both distance and time with respect to the light year measurements. To read more of the discovery history of our galactic neighbor go here.
Andromeda is a massive galaxy, in fact recent research by astrophysicists leads them to believe that the galaxy is five times larger than was originally thought. Andromeda's diameter is also five times that of our own Milky Way galaxy. The galaxy is most visible in the Northern sky at the end of Fall and the beginning of Winter. It is visible to the naked eye on a dark, clear night, but to see its glorious details you need a telescope. As always, you can enjoy that easily by joining up with a host of friendly amateur astronomers at Slooh.com.
There is both a great deal of history and science about each of the discoveries astronomers and astrophysicists have made from the Universe, but along with this there is an entrancing set of folklore or mythology attached to many of the stars, nebulae, galaxies and entire constellations in the universe. One of the most famous and endearing is the story of Perseus and Andromeda.
So the story, or mythology goes, Perseus, a brave warrior, was returning, astride Pegasus, after having just slain the dreadful gorgon, Medusa. To prove to powerful Zeus that he was successful, he carried Medusa's head with him. It was during this time that he learned of Andromeda's plight. Because of her mother's (Cassiopeia) impropriety, Andromeda was to be sacrificed to the horrible sea monster, Cetus and was thus chained to the rocks near Cetus's watery den. Perseus knew of Andromeda and her loveliness and asked her father, King Cepheus, if he rescued Andromeda, would Cepheus grant her hand in marriage to Perseus. The king agreed and Perseus set out to save his beloved Andromeda. When Cetus challenged Perseus at the rocks near Andromeda, Perseus removed the Medusa's head from its sack and turned it toward Cetus. Cetus was instantly turned to stone and Andromeda was safe.
Having freed and rescued lovely Andromeda, Perseus reaches out to her and bursts into song. Note: If you have speakers with your computer, you might want to turn them on.
The marriage of Perseus and Andromeda was a gala event attended by all the deities of the mythical heavens. Today, all the parties are in the heavens and very close to each other. When you look up to find Andromeda, very near and guarding her is the Perseus constellation and his in-laws, the constellations Cepheus and Cassiopeia are just around the block. Lastly, the bold and beautiful Pegasus, that magnificent beast Perseus rode on to rescue Andromeda is a nearby constellation as well.
Want to know more about constellations, just go here. Don't forget to visit Slooh.com as well.