4384374The Music of the Spheres — Chapter V.Florence Armstrong Grondal

The Stars of this ancient Royal Family shine conspicuously in the Northeast during the late summer evenings.



Cepheus, the King. Andromeda, the Princess.
Cassiopeia, the Queen. Pegasus, the Flying Horse.
Perseus, the Hero. Cetus, the Sea-monster.

Like the shadow of a dream among the summer stars of the northern sky is a wonderful story of romance and adventure. This story has been mentioned in all Greek literature of the 5th century before Christ, in incidents portrayed on early vases and in wall-paintings found in Pompeii, and its characters have been immortalized on brilliant groups of stars.

The tale that I am about to recount has lived since the time when great fabled sea-monsters were wont to appear and frighten the people along the coasts of the Mediterranean. Wild with terror, the king and his subjects would fly to the temples for protection and would even sacrifice their loved ones if an oracle so decreed.

In an age long past, scientists tell us, strange beasts actually inhabited the waters of the ocean. This they know for they have found the fossilized skeletons. For the sake of the romance let us imagine that some of these still survived in Andromeda's time; that one such monster had wandered in through the straits to the blue waters of the Mediterranean during the reign of her father King Cepheus, and that this king, following the advice of an oracle, actually chained his daughter to a rock upon the sea-shore believing that by this supreme sacrifice the wrath of Neptune might be appeased. Storms, wrecks and other disasters relating to the sea were thought to be the handiwork of the Sea-god seeking revenge for some fancied insult. Seeing the strange sea-beast appear along their coast, the Ethiopians probably considered all their sins and decided the cause was the excessive vanity of their Queen. Thus, from a bare thread, a beautiful story was elaborated and woven about Andromeda, the Princess; Perseus, the Hero; Cassiopeia, the Queen; Cepheus, the King; and Cetus, the terrible Sea-monster.

Not only was Cassiopeia proud and beautiful, but she wished others to be envious of her beauty, and to prove her superiority sent challengers throughout the country so that none might question it. In the excess of her vanity, she deliberately took her throne and sat in state by the shore, loudly repeating her boasts to show that she did not fear even the peerless sea-nymphs.

When the news of this audacious performance reached the ears of the Nereids who inhabited the depths of the Mediterranean, there was great excitement, but particularly was it resented by the sea-beauty Atergatis who straightway swam to the palace of Neptune, under the Ægean Sea, and begged him to avenge the insult offered to his nymphs. Neptune, furious at the effrontery of the Ethiopian Queen, shook the land of King Cepheus until the hills cracked and sent his waves to flood the country and wash away the coast. With the onrushing waters came the ferocious sea-monster which loitered near the shores and the mouths of the rivers and destroyed every man and animal that came within its reach.

Terrified by such a combination of calamities, Cepheus and Cassiopeia fled to the oracle of Jupiter, but they found no peace here, for the oracle informed them that the only way to make amends and ward off the evil that had befallen them, lay in the sacrifice of their innocent daughter Andromeda. There being no alternative, Cepheus was compelled by his subjects to submit to these terms, and taking poor Andromeda to the sea-beach, chained her wrists and ankles and fastened them to staples driven in a rock upon the shore. In the meantime the population of the entire city had gathered weeping upon a cliff, while in the distance Neptune's monster, sensing the commotion, swam steadily nearer, with his wicked, gloating eyes staring fixedly on the dainty morsel baited on the rocks.

Andromeda, in utter despair, bowed her head,—then looked up quickly on hearing the cheers of the people, for the hero Perseus had appeared, bounding and skimming along the sky and slanting downward toward the foaming waves. The hero gave one glance at the awful monster, then drew his sword and drove it deep into the sea-beast's scaly neck. With his other hand he pulled the Medusa's head from his wallet,—and the sea-beast slowly hardened into a beast of stone. With its glassy eyes protruding like balls of obsidian, the creature then sank in a petrified mass to the bottom of the sea.

The heroic youth, amazed at the effectiveness of the terrifying head, flew quickly to Andromeda and struck away the fetters which bound her to the shore. The King and his subjects then swarmed around them and amid great rejoicing carried them to the palace. Not long after, the Princess became the bride of the hero, who put away his fluttering shoes and set sail in a ship to the island of Seriphus.


This is Cepheus as he is traced among the stars, a king done in shorthand. He claims no star above the 3rd magnitude, but since his constellation is near the North Star and just above the Chair of his Queen, a large and conspicuous "W," it is easy to find and may be seen any clear night the year around. Cepheus may be seen at his best during the summer evenings when his stars are nearly overhead in the dome of the sky.

The other characters in this drama were placed among bright stars and are therefore more easily found, although to less romantic moderns these stars merely indicate the part of the sky-field where the ancients claim the royal family were lifted to the stars.

Below Cepheus, on a "Chair" of bright stars, sits Cassiopeia, his Queen, her arms upraised and her face pensive through long ages of humiliating sorrow; below Cassiopeia stands Perseus transfixed in a heroic attitude, the segment of three stars shining against his armor-clad body, his diamond-bladed sword thrust among the fainter gleams above his head. The snaky-locked Gorgon Medusa hangs downward from his shield, while among its fearful tresses blinks Algol, the Demon Star. On the line of stars that twinkle at the hero's feet, lies the fair maid Andromeda, her hands outstretched and bound, and her long, dark hair caught with a star on the Square of Pegasus. The silvery-winged Horse was, oddly enough, placed upside down upon his constellation with his head extending earthward from a corner of the "Square" and his feet pawing upward into the darkness. Far below in the south glitters Cetus, Neptune's wicked monster, although Cetus does not appear until September and is not completely visible until January. The ancient royal family from Ethiopia, now famous for all time, and the immortal Perseus, from whom proud kings claim their ancestry, are conspicuous figures in the northeast during the late summer evenings, and are at their best here rather than in the dome of the sky or in the west.

A small meteor shower radiates from the vicinity of Cepheus during the latter part of June. Remember that Cepheus lies up near the North Star near the Pole of the Heavens and these meteors will not be difficult to locate.

It is also interesting to note that in the constellation of Cepheus may be found the north polar star of the planet Mars.

Cassiopeia, the Queen

The "Chair of Cassiopeia" rests upon the path of the Milky Way in the northern part of the heavens. It consists of five bright stars which suggest the outlines of an "M" or "W," and may be easily located by projecting a line drawn from the Big Dipper through the North Star and on again for an equal distance. Thus the Dipper and the "W" in beautiful balance, teeter, now high and now low, about the pole. The "W," however, is most impressive when near the horizon.

Poets tell of the silvery currents of the Milky Way that wind in and out among the stars of this "Chair," but with the telescope one may see more clearly and perceive that the "silvery currents" are a magnificent wilderness of suns.

When the nymphs of the Mediterranean discovered that Cassiopeia had been honored with a choice position among the stars, they were perfectly furious, and even the sympathy of Juno did not console them as she recalled the time that Callisto was transposed as Ursa Major to the stars. Odd fate that forced an Arcadian maid and an Ethiopian Queen to follow each other forever around the Arctic circle of the heavens! The Nereids, however, protested violently to Jupiter that such a reward for Cassiopeia's boasting was unfair and their influence so far prevailed that the Queen was set in a tilted fashion and forced to swing half of every night with her head hanging downward, and both her arms upraised. Furthermore, her "Chair" was strongly outlined while her queenly person was quite ignored. Thus the petty spite of the sea-nymphs was much worse than Cassiopeia's boasting.There was a slight compensation, when, for all this humiliation, two of the stars in the "W" were named after the Queen's 'heart' and 'hand' by the Arabian astronomers,—Alpha, the lower star of the five bright ones, being called Shedir, "the heart," and Beta, in the back of the chair, Caph, "the tinted hand."

About six centuries ago, a phenomenon happened among the stars in Cassiopeia's constellation, where, suddenly, in a position which had previously been blank, a new star shone forth. This star glowed as brightly as the planet Venus, which outshines every star in the sky. It was so bright that it was even visible in the daytime! This brilliancy then commenced to diminish, the star growing fainter and fainter until in about a year and a half it had completely disappeared.

While new stars have been noted during the course of centuries, the appearance of one is always so unusual that it stands out against the background of the sky with almost a disquieting effect. The presence of an additional bright star, strange as it may seem, is immediately noticeable to one who is familiar with the constellations. Astronomers record its history with as much interest as the appearance of a new island or volcano would occasion on earth.

Two theories for temporary stars are given in Moulton's "Introduction to Astronomy." Professor Moulton tells us that these theories are surrounded by serious objections—but they are interesting nevertheless.

One is "that there is invisible nebulous or meteoric matter lying in various parts of space, particularly in the region occupied by the Milky Way (there is confirmatory evidence of this hypothesis); that there are also dark or very faint stars"—(that is stars which are in the last stages of cooling, a phenomenon also confirmed)—"that the dark stars, rushing through the nebulæ, blaze into incandescence as meteors glow when they enter the earth's atmosphere; that the heating is superficial and quickly dies away." Another hypothesis is that temporary stars "are produced by collisions of stars with stars."

Still another hypothesis among astronomers which has lately gained considerable support is that at the time of an outbreak in a typical nova (new star), a shell of incandescent gas is actually ejected at an enormous rate of speed. Such a phenomenon has been witnessed in the case of one very recent nova.

A 3-inch telescope will show two interesting double stars on the second part of the "W" of Cassiopeia, although the lower of these double stars may also be seen through a 2-inch telescope.

The lower star (α) is a lovely double, one of its components being a rose and the other a clear-hued blue; the yellow star above it has a purple companion which with the larger star whirls around a common center of gravity in a period of about 200 years. Since these stars are suns, as all stars are suns, it is often speculated what effect such combinations of colors would have on a family of planets,—but only a mathematical astronomer would be privileged to figure this out, with such complicated days and nights and seasons. Perhaps there would be no nights—only purple days and yellow days, or blue days and rose days, while peculiar combinations of life—inducing light rays and heat rays might produce strange and awesome forms and eerie vegetation!

Cassiopeia, as well as the Big Dipper, has been called a "celestial clock" for one may read the sidereal time from this configuration of stars with an error not exceeding 15 or 20 minutes. When the star Caph, or β Cassiopeiæ, is vertically above the Pole Star it is sidereal noon; 6 hours when it is on the great circle drawn from the Pole Star to the west point of the horizon; 12 hours when vertically below it; and 18 hours when due east. Caph, or β Cassiopeiæ, leads the other stars of the constellation in their journey westward.

Perseus, the Hero

This is the hero Perseus, easily recognized by the three bright stars which lie in a curved row. These stars hang just below the W-shaped Chair of the unfortunate Queen Cassiopeia who sits in the Milky Way. Aratus, the Greek poet, claims that the sparkles of light which twinkle in this vicinity are particles of dust which the hero stirred up in his haste to rescue Andromeda.

What a charming picture to impress upon the sky!

But now in the twentieth century we analyze this dust which the ancients claim their Perseus raised—and what do we find? Every particle in that misty path is a mighty sun, suspended amidst multitudes of other mighty suns, massed in one long strip of splendor across the sky. For (calmly speaking) the Milky Way is a zone of innumerable stars so very distant that the individual lights are blended in one continuous band of silvery haze.

Against this glorious path stands Perseus, sword upraised among its stars, while entangled in the fearful locks of the Gorgon Medusa glows Algol, the "Blinking Demon." This so-called demon-star actually winks, that is, it indulges in one long, slow wink at intervals of exactly 2 days, 20 hours and 49 minutes. Such a phenomenon used to be a source of terror to the Arabs who feared it might be predictive of some disaster.

Although Perseus and the Gorgon are figments of fancy the wink of this amazing star is not imaginary by any means, for its light actually drops from the 2nd magnitude to the 4th magnitude and stays thus, half darkened, for about 20 minutes. Then it begins to slowly brighten and in the course of the next three hours regains its former brilliancy. In the clear air of the desert where the large stars burn like fire-brands, this change in brightness is very noticeable. Since it was not understood, it seemed terrifying and the superstitious Arabs imagined it to be the eye of a demon. It seemed a fitting star for the ancient Greeks to place on the grewsome head of the Gorgon Medusa where ever after it has flashed and faded in the most eerie fashion.

The mystery of this winking star was not discovered until 1889. Then Vogel found that the periodical change of brightness in Algol is caused by a huge dimly lighted sun,—relatively dark compared with Algol,—which revolves around the major sun at a distance of only 3,000,000 miles. (The earth revolves at a distance of 93,000,000 miles from our sun.) Every time this darker body passes between Algol and the earth, five-sixths of the light from Algol is cut off, thus making it appear to blink. Vogel also found, through the aid of the spectroscope, the diameter and mass of these stars. Algol was found to be about one million miles in diameter with a mass less than half that of the sun while its companion was found to be about 800,000 miles in diameter with a mass about one fourth that of our sun.

Thirty stars are now known to be of the Algol type. One of the most remarkable of these, V. Puppis, was found to be in the southern hemisphere and was carefully examined by Dr. A. W. Roberts. This star has a light variation of only 1½ days and is believed to whirl so closely to its companion that it is in actual contact.

The most favorable seasons for seeing Algol during the early evening are in the autumn, winter and early spring; in the autumn, low in the northeast, when it rises at sunset in the middle of September; in the winter, high up in the north, not far from the zenith; and in the spring, low down in the northwest. At the correct time it is possible for anyone to see its change in brilliancy although the best time to watch for this is during September and October. Algol rises at sunset in the middle of September and consumes 9 hours and 12 minutes in reaching the meridian. To best appreciate the change in this star compare it with the stars near by, especially to the 4th magnitude star that lies quite near to it. Thus Perseus holds Algol on the Gorgon's head which flashes with "fiery snakes,"—his right hand brandishes a glittering sword, his armor is decked with stars, while the 'dust' he raised swirls in a milky path from the zenith to the trees on the horizon.

In the Sword Hand of Perseus the ancient Greeks saw the gleam of the sword borrowed from Mercury, a diamond-bladed, diamond-hilted sword, carved from a single diamond, but modern astronomers searching in the same spot discovered a more wonderful object for, through the eye of a telescope, the two nebulous patches of hazy light on the Sword Hand were resolved into countless stars! These star clusters are interesting even in a field-glass although higher powers disclose them as veritable sun-bursts of diamond-like stars. The two clusters may be located about half-way between Mirfak, the brightest star in the Segment of Perseus, and the "W" of Cassiopeia.

One might at first glance take these crowded masses of stars as an example where the great force of gravity had worked not wisely but too well; but it is only the unbelievable distance that our earth lies from these stars which makes them look so closely clustered together. Would the brighter naked-eye stars which bespangle our sky look like this—a glimmering spot—from so vast a distance? To know that our solar cluster of stars is not the only cluster in the heavens is enough to take a little of the conceit out of man's colossal opinion of himself.

A good meteor shower appears in the vicinity of the constellation of Perseus about the 10th of August. These meteors are best seen around three o'clock in the morning and have been recorded as appearing as far back as 811 A.D. This would seem to reasonably assure the annual reappearance of the spectacle but since the number of meteors is steadily decreasing there is a time in the future when it will cease to be. These meteors are popularly known as the "Tears of Saint Lawrence," mentioned as the "fiery tears" in ancient legends because Saint Lawrence was burned at the stake upon the 10th of August in the "sad old days" of religious intolerance. Every year, like ghosts, his tears return and rain down from the sky in drops of fire. They fall at the rate of about one a minute. Miss Proctor, in "Half Hours with the Summer Stars," mentions a quaint old oriental legend in which the meteors are supposed to be darts which are thrown by the angels at the evil ones who are barred from heaven and eavesdrop at its gates.

The myth which is woven about the hero Perseus is a very beautiful one and a few words as to why the Greeks so loved this gallant lad might be well appreciated by those who are not familiar with the story.

Acrisius, King of Argos, was so selfish and quarrelsome that finally Jupiter, who watched over the affairs of mankind, determined to give him something real to worry about, so Acrisius was informed through an oracle that he would lose his crown and die by the hand of his own grandson. Soon after this Perseus was born, and the King was indeed terrified. His fear increased daily, finally bringing him to such a state of madness that he placed the Princess Danae, his own daughter, and her little son in a large chest and threw it into the sea.

The gods, however, watched the chest and held it steady among the roughest waves, finally stranding it in the sea-weed on the little Island of Seriphus where the wanderers were rescued and given a home.

Years passed, and the King of Seriphus grew to love Danae, but he feared Perseus who looked like a golden-haired god. One day this king planned a great feast and informed his guests that each must bring a gift as proof of his loyalty, and the gift must be either costly or rare. Since Perseus had no wealth, the king suggested that he bring to court the head of the Gorgon Medusa who lived across the sea in the wilds of a strange and distant land.

With his heart filled with sorrow at the thought of this wellnigh impossible task, Perseus went out into the fields and walked about alone. What chance had he against this fearful creature that had the wings of an eagle and hair that writhed in living snakes about her shoulders, and coiled and hissed and darted on her head? More than this, her eyes were filled with horror and turned all who gazed upon her into stone! Walking along thus enwrapped in dreary thoughts, the youth felt himself suddenly grow buoyant, and looking down on his sandals saw that living wings had grown upon their heels; then a polished shield reflecting like a mirror was hung upon his arm, and a sword carved from a diamond, which must have once equaled the size of a bowlder, was thrust into his hand. The gods had again taken care of their own! Holding himself proudly, our hero walked to the end of the island where a high cliff jutted above the rocky shore below. He stood on the edge and looked down at the rocks beneath him; then he raised his head and looked at the high white clouds in the sunny sky. He thought of the gods and his mother—and bravely stepped over—then laughed joyously as he skimmed like a bird in the warm rays of the sun.

It is a long tale to tell how he journeyed northward to the land of snow and ice, then southward again, and across the Mediterranean.

"He saw the southern, and the northern pole:
And eastward thrice, and westward thrice, was whirl'd."

After finding the Three Gray Sisters who had but one eye between them, Perseus forced them to tell him where to find the country where the Gorgons dwelt. After many hardships, he found this country on the western shore of Africa and knew it immediately, for all around stood the images of men and beasts whose flesh and blood the Medusa's eyes had hardened into stone

"Beasts to the rocks were fix'd and all around
Were tribes of stone and marble nations found."
Lucan's Pharsalia.

There, amid the rocks, lay the Medusa asleep, with half of the snakes awake and squirming restlessly. With his eyes on the reflection in the shield, the son of Danae swooped quickly downward, cut off the monster's head and grasped its clammy, lifeless locks in his hand.

Winging his way over northern Africa, Perseus came to the mountain on which the Titan Atlas sat, hunched up on a peak with his shoulders sagging under the weight of the heavens. Somewhat weary after his long flight, the youth landed in the Garden of the Hesperides, which lay at the foot of the mountain, and watched the maidens, daughters of Hesperus, the silver Evening Star, as they danced around a shining tree of golden apples. But he dared not touch or even go near the apples, for around the trunk was coiled old Laden, a monstrous dragon whose watchful eyes were never closed. He then climbed up to the top of the mountain to talk to Atlas, but Atlas did not receive him hospitably for an oracle had declared that the day would come when a son of Jupiter would take his golden fruit, and he had therefore forbidden strangers to come into his land. Perseus begged for just one night of rest, but Atlas roared in anger and would not even listen to him. "Have a rest yourself, then!" shouted our hero, and held up the Gorgon's head. The great giant gave one startled look, which was plenty, for the features of his face grew stiff as weather-beaten ledges, his bones congealed like a mass of Tock, and his beard stuck out like a forest of naked trees! Perseus hurriedly swung the head behind him and, a trifle panic-stricken perhaps, flew away over the African desert with the blood falling drip, drip, drip on the hot, gray sands.

"The gory drops distilled, as swift he flew,
And from each drop envenomed serpents grew."

Thus from this monster Nature produced the first snakes, which bred and multiplied on the desert until the region was infested with the miserable creatures.

The great dark splash which the sea had caught when first he rose in the air after beheading the Gorgon, had formed the silvery winged Pegasus, the world's first horse. This splendid animal, however, did not stay with Perseus, but spread its beautiful feathered wings in the air and flew directly to Greece, where it was presented to the Muses on Mount Helicon and afterwards given a constellation.

Flying over mountains and deserts and the narrow green valley of the Nile, Perseus came to the shore of Palestine, the home of the Ethiopians, which he found inundated with floods and strewn with the wreckage of towns and villages. Traveling slowly above the sea-coast of this unfortunate country, he spied something white at the water's edge, and coming closer saw that it was a maiden chained by her wrists and ankles to a rock, while not far distant and ever approaching closer, was the most terrifying monster that he had ever seen. On the star maps this creature is labeled a "whale." It may have been a whale, and it may not, who knows? Sixty or seventy feet of whale lashing a tail big enough to destroy a large boat would certainly seem a terrible sea-monster to people who had never seen a whale. How could they know that its fifteen or sixteen feet of gaping mouth had never tasted anything but tiny crustaceans and acalephæ strained from sea-water! Hero indeed was Perseus, for he skimmed swiftly down to a nearby wave, and poising upon its frothy peak, thrust the monster deep below the jaw. A brave, brave deed was this, and the people shouted their vast amazement and delight. As the great sea-creature leaped and lunged and fell, Perseus again snatched the blood-freezing head of the Medusa from his wallet—and the cliffs trembled as the monster hit the bottom of the sea!

The Story of Andromeda Immortalized in Stars
"She still in heaven her captive form retains,
And on her wrists still hang the galling chains."

According to some of the poets, Jupiter was so inordinately proud of the youth's achievements, that he caused all the principal characters in his adventures to be immortalized in stars, the sea-monster sharing the honor in a dim constellation far to the south. He, as well as the horse, has been given a name and even grave astronomers call him "Cetus."

For a thousand years the famous rock was shown at Joppa and the slaying of the Medusa and the rescue of Andromeda were favorite subjects in ancient art. Artists thrilled to their theme as they made it glow in colors on their canvases, and poets made the story live again and again. If anyone wonders what became of the awful Medusa's head after Perseus had won Andromeda for his bride, it might be well to add that after reducing two courts of cowardly nobles to statues of stone, Perseus gave the head to the goddess Minerva who placed it on her shield. This goddess is very chaste and with the fearful head has since succeeded in freezing all beholders.

Andromeda, the Princess

The charming Princess Andromeda wears her chains in the sky just as she did upon the sea-shore of the earth, only as a constellation she has a line of pretty yellow stars on which to rest, one of the stars lighting her dark hair, one adorning her girdle and one sparkling like a jewel upon her sandal. The head of the Princess lies against the Square of Pegasus, the Winged Horse, and her feet reach out almost to Perseus, who with a ready sword watches her protectingly.

The orange star on Andromeda's sandal is the radiant point of the Biela meteors. These appear every year on the 27th of November. This star is a delight to the eye when viewed through a large telescope, for not only one star is disclosed but three—a sea-green and a blue beside the one of orange-gold!

Just above Mirach, the star on the girdle, are two fainter stars and a small misty object. A large telescope will show that this misty object is a long shuttle-shaped nebula of the most colossal size. This is the famous nebula of Andromeda, the only spiral nebula in the heavens which may be located without a telescope. The nebula of Andromeda is not a gaseous nebula but an outside universe, an aggregation of millions of suns comparable to the Galaxy. (The Galaxy is our Milky Way.) This in itself is astounding, but it is also astounding that we have been privileged to gaze over a chasm so wide that an aggregation of millions of suns looks no more to our eyes than a misty spot of light. Dr. Edwin Hubble, of the Mount Wilson observatory in California, has recently made the discovery that the more distant spiral nebulæ may also be resolved into stars. Dr. Hubble made his investigations photographically with the 60-inch and 100-inch telescopes. Although most of the spiral nebulæ appear very small because they are at least a million light years distant, the nebula of Andromeda is comparatively close, its apparent diameter being about six times the diameter of the moon.

This famous nebula may be most easily located when near the zenith during the latter part of October. Watch for it just after the star Alpheratz, on the head of Andromeda, has passed the meridian and started toward the west. To the unaided eye, it
Photograph by Yerkes Observatory through the 40-inch refracting telescope.

appears as a small mass of faint light and inexperienced observers often mistake it for a comet. Although this mass of light may be considered as being comparatively close compared to other spiral nebula, it is scarcely like sighting a ship at sea, for so far away does the spiral of Andromeda lie, that a ray of light must travel at least 36,000 years in order to reach the earth—36,000 years with light traveling 186,000 miles a second!

Pegasus, the flying Horse

The constellation of Pegasus, the Winged Horse of the Muses, is marked by a great square formed by four bright stars. This "square" lies against the horse's neck and wings, while his head, adorned by the star Enif, hangs downward from one corner and stretches toward the west. Enif lies about 10 degrees west of a small but conspicuous diamond-shaped constellation called The Dolphin, or Job's Coffin.

Although Pegasus is close to Perseus in the sky, this winged horse was not with the hero either at the time he met Andromeda or at any other period of his life. Since only half of his body is represented on his star square it is sometimes said that the remainder is hidden behind the rocks to which Andromeda is chained. The reason that artists so often draw Pegasus beside the hero Perseus must be that they take the astronomical picture instead of the mythological version of the story as a basis for their theme, although his unnatural position of being upside down is studiously ignored;—even the ancient poets refrained from comment upon this point.

Mr. Clark, in "Astronomy from a Dipper," aptly remarks that "the square suggests a boxstall in which a horse could be kept rather than a portion of a great flying horse." There is certainly "more truth than poetry" in this idea and just about all of the constellations look most like "what they are not." Not possessing the vivid imagery of the Greeks, most of us must be content with looking at the bright Square which marks the place of the great Winged Horse in the darkness.

It will be recalled that when Perseus swooped down and cut the head off the Gorgon, its life-blood crimsoned the foam on the sea. Neptune, seeing this, spun it into silver with the wind and waves, and formed, in a moment, the wondrous horse.

Born full-grown, gifted with immortal life and blessed with incredible speed, Pegasus lifted his silvery wings and sprang toward the clouds. He then rushed headlong toward Mount Helicon where he flew about the mountain, alighted in its sacred groves, and was petted by the Muses.

According to all accounts the hoofs of this beautiful creature must have possessed not only miraculous strength but also some of the properties of a divining-rod, for, when thirsty, all that he needs must do was to strike his magic hoof upon the ground and up would spout a fountain or a spring—crystal clear and delightfully cool.

"He it was, men say, that brought down from lofty
Helicon the bright waters of bounteous Hippocrene."

The Fountain of Hippocrene was the result of an almost unbelievable exhibition of strength which occurred, as the story goes, at the time that the nine Muses and the nine daughters of Pierus engaged in a musical contest on Mount Helicon. When the nine daughters of Pierus began to sing, the heavens scowled and grew dark, but when the nine Muses lifted their voices in song, the skies grew gold with sunlight, the rivers stopped spellbound in their courses and Mount Helicon rose skyward in sheer delight. Neptune, observing the mountain, advised Pegasus to stop its ascension by kicking it with his hoof. The winged steed kicked and not only quenched the rising enthusiasm of Helicon, but caused the waters of Hippocrene to burst forth from the very crest of a vast rock. Poets were not long in discovering that a draught of these sparkling waters fired their minds with divine inspiration, and the beauty in their souls grew like flowers into poems which stayed fresh and fair through all succeeding centuries. No wonder modern poets sigh

"for a beaker full of the warm south
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking on the brim."

Twenty "stadia" below the Fountain lay the Grove of the Muses, situated in a pleasant hollow, while below this Grove, at the foot of Helicon, was the village of Ascra, the residence of Hesiod, and the earliest seat of poetry in Greece. One can imagine that the poets made frequent trips up the two miles or so that brought them to the Fountain of the Horse. In modern times, Hippocrene has been identified with a fine spring at Makariotissa.

The limpid spring of Pirene on the citadel of Corinth was also opened by a blow from the winged horse's foot. The water from Pirene was in later days conveyed down the hill by subterranean conduits into a marble basin made especially to hold it. Pegasus was not given credit for having opened these springs, however, until the days of the Alexandrian poets. In lovely fancies, these "Spring-inspired" poets not only extolled the wondrous strength in the hoof of Pegasus as he cleft a chasm in the earth, but they also sang of so light a foot that he no more than shook the sweetness from the flowers.

For a long time Pegasus flew about Mount Helicon, adored by the Muses and admired by the gods, but finally one day, while drinking at a spring, he was captured by a Grecian youth named Bellerophon. After making him fast with a golden bridle loaned to him by Minerva, Bellerophon mounted the broad back, slipped his feet between the wings and soared to the sky. As might have been expected, Bellerophon henceforth spent a good part of his time along the dizzying heights above and around the clouds and one day accomplished the praiseworthy deed of swooping down and slaying a triple-headed monster which had been terrorizing all the surrounding land.

After this famous ride, Bellerophon seized what he considered a good opportunity and tried to ascend to the top of the broad summit of Mount Olympus which towered almost twice as high as the summit of Mount Helicon. But Mount Olympus was the abode of the gods and this presumptuous act so angered Jupiter that he sent an insect to torment the steed which reared backward and threw its rider to the earth. Being now quite accustomed to a rider, Pegasus was presented to Aurora, Goddess of the Dawn, whose duty it was to lift the curtain of night with her rosy tinted fingers and open the eastern gates for Apollo, the Sun-god. In art Aurora is often pictured as a spirited maiden in dazzling robes riding swiftly on the winged Pegasus, although she is also represented as rising out of the ocean in the east in a car drawn by four white horses. Perhaps she decided to employ the latter exclusively to usher in the dawn, for Pegasus was later transposed to the stars and never again permitted to stray earthward. His great dark sky square with a star on each corner is exceedingly easy to find especially during September when it is on the sky slope in the east, although if there is any difficulty in locating it, let the eye travel from Cassiopeia to the Segment of Perseus—which resembles a rod bent in the middle and swayed by the weight of this big chained Square.

The Square rises and sets in a tilted fashion with its corner star, Scheat, on the horse's knee, almost above Algenib, which lies on his wing.
"as if by art at equal distance placed."
This causes the Square to resemble a distorted diamond-shaped figure when seen in the east or west but when the figure travels along the south about nine o'clock during the latter part of October or the first of November, its sides are horizontal and vertical.

The Winged Horse first makes his appearance in the northeast near midnight in the middle of June but is better seen in the east between nine and ten o'clock a little later in the summer. Any time during the Autumn he may be seen flying inverted across the dome of the heavens and by November is high in the west. Evening after evening his silvery wings fly lower and lower; the star Enif flutters as it nears the thickened atmosphere about the horizon and Andromeda probably trembles as he draws her near Cetus, head downward through the western sky.

The Winged Horse flies head downward in the west.

"The head of Andromeda is setting and against her is brought by the Misty South the mighty terror, Cetus, but over in the North Cepheus with his mighty hand upraised warns him back."


By the first of the year the starry "Square" of the beautiful Pegasus has entirely disappeared. Andromeda and Perseus soon follow but Cassiopeia continues around the horizon in the north. Throughout the spring and early summer Pegasus remains in regions below our sight but in September he again appears and flies inverted up the heavens in the east.

Cetus, the Sea-monster

Early poets describe Cetus as a monster armored with heavy scales or as being long-necked and clawed, which brings to mind the sea-reptiles which are known to have inhabited the sea during the Mesozoic Age. Although poets are known for their tendency to exaggerate, this in itself is enough to lend a spicy interest to the legend, for one's thoughts fly back to the world's young days when reptiles of great size literally overran the earth and cluttered up the sea. Many of these forms have been reconstructed from fossils found embedded in the rock strata. These are most amazing, grotesque and even terrifying and may be seen in any of the great museums. If a museum is not handy one may shiver with real thrills by going through the pages of a well illustrated text on geology.

Some such creature as one of these was Cetus,—according to the poets. Some authors think that the whole story of Andromeda is an allegory; others, that it may have been based, though somewhat lightly, upon a historical fact. Ancient authorities (Pliny, Josephus and others), claim that the bones of Cetus were brought from Joppa to Rome and there exhibited by M. Scarus, and it is also claimed that the people along the sea-coast at this time were driven forth in hysterical fear, for when the monster appeared it not only swallowed up the cattle as they came to browse at the river's mouth but also snatched the children as they splashed about at play. Mythology tells us that Hercules, as well as Perseus, once killed such a sea-monster as this and it is then related that he tried to narrow the width of the strait leading into the Mediterranean by pushing the rocks on either shore closer together so as to prevent further invasions of Neptune's fierce and terrible creatures.

The pictures of Cetus differ in the old star-maps although he is almost always represented as being strange and ferocious. After having drawn the animal, however, with scales and claws, a mad, mad tail and sometimes even rows of teeth, the mapmaker becomes conservative and calls it "Cetus, the Whale."

As a constellation, Cetus first begins to appear in September but does not get fully above the horizon for almost four months. By January he is completely visible, his huge, faint form covering over 40 degrees of sky. His head is rather pentagonal as impressed among the stars and extends on a long neck above the celestial equator; his tail is even longer than his neck and curls upward as if he were angry—which he assuredly was when petrified by Perseus into stone. His sides are clear and black with unadorned sky-space and seem quite devoid of even the fainter stars.

Always look for Cetus in the southeast, south or southwest, in front of and below Orion and far below Andromeda. The point of the V-shaped Hyades also directs the eye toward his pentagonal head which extends toward the east.

Just about in the center of the long, giraffe-like neck of Cetus, the villain in our play, lies Myra, a most extraordinary star.
Cetus, the Whale.
This star is called "Myra, the Wonderful" because of its amazing behavior in a period of only eleven months. For three months Myra is visible to the unaided eye; during the other eight it can only be seen in a good telescope. Put in another way—for five months at a time it is completely invisible to the unaided eye; then from a mere speck it slowly brightens until in the course of three months more it has become a star of the 2nd magnitude, although it remains a star of the 2nd magnitude for only a few weeks. This change from a telescopic star of the 9th or 10th magnitude to one of the 2nd magnitude means that Myra must blaze up from 1000 times to 1500 times its ordinary brilliancy! Such a statement may overwhelm the casual reader but we must remember (in order not to become unduly excited) that this star is so far away that such a conflagration would only mean the gradual appearance of a star where none had been visible before, and then its gradual disappearance.

Myra is indeed so far away that we are just 23 years behind time in seeing each explosion, for it takes 23 years for its light to travel to our eyes. If the roar of the conflagration could be heard here, however, the sound would not reach the earth for many millions of years, for sound travels much more slowly than light.

Myra, the wonderful variable star, on the neck of Cetus, the Sea-monster.

Because of the variation of its light, which is very excessive in the case of Myra, this star is called a variable star. Our sun is also a variable star, but it is variable only in a very slight degree as compared with the exuberant combustibility of Myra. But the theory of spots which are believed to be responsible for the almost imperceptible variation in the light intensity of our sun does not altogether explain the phenomenon of Myra's variability and its mystery is still as great as ever.

Thus is ended the story of Perseus and Andromeda and many of the interesting bits of information connected with the constellations of the various characters after they were transferred to the sky.

Three small constellations lie between Andromeda, Cetus and the Square of Pegasus, and a word about them here will help to impress this part of the sky upon the mind without the trouble of carrying maps every time one feels inclined to gaze at the stars. These constellations are Pisces, the Fish; Triangulum, the Triangle and Aries, the Ram.

Pisces represents two small fish tied by their tails by two long 'star lines' which meet at a common star sometimes called Al Rischa or the "Knot Star."

"Their tails point to an angle
Filled by a goodly star."

Although the constellation occupies a large space in the heavens it has no conspicuous stars in it. It is best seen when the parallelogram of Orion is in the sky and may be located above and to the west of Cetus. Look for it on the first of January about 8 P. M. although it is also viewed to good advantage when passing the meridian during the evenings of October and November. Pisces lies in a region which in early times was known as "the Sea" because several other sea-creatures such as the Dolphin, which lies west of the Square, the Sea-goat and the Whale are found here.

Some authorities claim that when the fire-breathing giant Typhon appeared in Thessaly, the horrible creature so frightened the inhabitants of Olympus that they fled to the Nile where they concealed themselves under assumed shapes. Here the great god Jupiter

"was changed into a Ram
From whence the horns of Libyan Ammon came."

and the fun loving Pan into a sea-goat, now the constellation Capricornus, while the goddess Venus and her son Cupid threw themselves into the river and were changed into two fishes, which are now represented by Pisces, in the sky. The fate of Typhon has already been mentioned, and even modern Sicilians have seen Etna burst its crown to let out his fiery breath.

Just below Andromeda and above the head of Cetus is a long slim triangle-shaped figure called Triangulum, the Triangle, and a crooked line formed by a large star and two smaller ones called Aries, the Ram.

In legend, Aries was a great ram with a golden fleece and possessed the ability to fly. Mercury brought this beautiful creature to Helle and Prixus, the persecuted children of the King of Thessaly, so that they might climb upon its back and escape across the sea from their cruel stepmother. On the way over, Helle lost her hold on the fleece, sank under the waves and was drowned. Commemorating this tragedy, the sea was ever after called the Sea of Helle or the Hellespont but in modern days, the Dardanelles. The Dardanelles is a narrow channel separating Europe from Asia, and is the "Hellespont" that Leander so faithfully swam when visiting Hero, his sweetheart. Prixus, coming safely to the end of his journey, dedicated the ram to Jupiter who placed it among the stars. It is now a zodiacal constellation with the horns of the ram for its sign: ♈︎. The golden fleece, while on earth, was of course very desirable so that it was fastened to an oak tree in the sacred grove of the War-god Mars at the eastern end of the Black Sea and a sleepless dragon was wound around the tree-trunk to protect it. It was to obtain this fleece that, in 936 B. C., Jason built a fifty-oared galley—the first of ships—and invited the heroes of Greece to go with him on the expedition. This adventurous undertaking was afterward known as the Argonautic Expedition. The ship Argo was placed in the sky as a southern constellation, or at least a part of it was for the bow is said to have been lost when passing through the Bosporus.

"Argo, exalted for that daring feat
To fix in heaven her shape with stars."

But even the portion that was lifted to the sky is so large that astronomers, for convenience, have divided it into three parts,—Carina, the Keel; Puppis, the Stern; and Vela, the Sail. The beautiful star Canopus lies on the Keel.

Triangulum and Aries, traveling beneath Andromeda, rise in late September and October and pass the meridian in the early evenings during the first weeks of December.


During the spring and summer months these clearly marked constellations parade slowly across the dome of the heavens. Leo, the Lion, may be easily located beneath the Big Dipper.