January 23 – February 5, 2017

Perseus the Hero in The Milky Way

Bright stars and mythic relationships connect Perseus, Pegasus and Cassiopeia. Look overhead from about 6:30 - 8 p.m. and toward the northwest later at night during the time frame of this post.   
(Image drawn for location of constellations in August.) 
Courtesy EarthSky.orgBright stars and mythic relationships connect Perseus, Pegasus and Cassiopeia. Look overhead from about 6:30 - 8 p.m. and toward the northwest later at night during the time frame of this post. (Image drawn for location of constellations in August.) Courtesy EarthSky.org

On crystal clear winter nights in the countryside and dark sky reaches of the suburbs, we are graced with a view of the Milky Way – the mysterious, glowing band of stars and stardust that arcs overhead. Early, when darkness gathers at about 6:30pm, Perseus the Hero appears in the middle of the arc at the top of the sky. By 9pm the constellation inclines toward the west and may be seen in the west to west-northwest all night.

eyestoskyJAN23_2VENUSmarsSWest

Perseus evades the casual stargazer and is not well known because the star pattern lacks brilliant stars that create outstanding stick figures like Orion (http://www.ebroadsheet.com/eyes-sky-january-9-22-2017/)
that are visible in cities. As is the case with many fainter constellations, one or two Persei are bright enough to survive lit environments like here in Battery Park City: Mirfak marks the Hero’s shoulder and Algol a wrist. Once you’ve seen Perseus in a dark sky, the constellation’s dazzle of stars and nebulae is unforgettable! https://www.stardate.org/radio/program/california-nebula

When looking for a star pattern, the viewer is invited to gaze at a location in the sky long enough to connect with the stars that occupy that spot. Perseus’ mother-in-law, queen Cassiopeia, is easy to find above the Hero; she is in the form of a “W” or “M”, often seen sideways or backward. Imagine a lady sitting in a chair when you see the group of stars. http://www.solarsystemquick.com/universe/cassiopeia-constellation.htm
Most of Cassiopeia survives city lights.

Perseus is to the left and below the “W”. Under dark skies, the pattern appears to me as a dancing figure drawn with star-studded, curving limbs that branch out from a short trunk. The shape also looks like a graceful, lit fountain or the exuberant, branching tip of a flowering plant like pine or corn surrounded by the radiance of sunlight. In the city, look for the two brightest stars of the constellation (refer to the diagram, above.)

At nightfall, Perseus appears high above planet Venus, which glows in the west-southwest. Our neighbor planet is brightest of all planets in Earth’s sky and is growing in brilliance every evening. Revel in the sight of a young crescent moon poised between Venus and Mars on the 31st. Then, look up to wink at Perseus.

SOURCES AND RESOURCES:
http://www.solarsystemquick.com/universe/perseus-constellation.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Dumbbell_Nebula

https://www.stardate.org/radio/program/california-nebula

http://www.solarsystemquick.com/universe/cassiopeia-constellation.htm

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