Cassiopeia is a beautiful constellation at the edge of the Milky Way that can be readily found in the N.E. skies this time of year (August)in the Northern hemisphere. It is quite recognizable, because if its "W" or "M" shape. It's near the Perseus constellation family, which is the direction that the annual Perseid Meteor Shower comes from. It's also easy to pick out because it's directly opposite the Big Dipper across the North Star. The best thing about Cassiopeia, though, is the wonderful legend that is associated with it. I told my kids and varied neighborhood kids this story, and they loved it.

The legend goes that long ago Cassiopeia was the wife of Cepheus and the mother of Andromeda. She was very beautiful, but also very vain. Ol' Cass bragged that she was even more beautiful than the sea nymphs, goddesses of incredible beauty, who ruled over nature. The nymphs got mad and begged the God of the Sea, Poseidon, to punish her. Poseidon unleashed a giant monster, Cetus, to destroy Cassiopeia's homeland. The only way the destruction could be stopped was if Andromeda, the beloved daughter of Cassiopeia, was chained to a rock in the sea to be given as an offering to Cetus. Luckily for everyone but Cetus, the legendary hero Perseus was passing by and saw the plight of the daughter, and drew his sword and slew (what a cool word) the monster. Of course, as usually happens in legends, Perseus and Andromeda fell in love and lived happily ever after. But the cause of all the turmoil, Cassiopeia, was punished by Zeus for her vanity, and banished to the heavens, forever to sit among the stars. To teach her humility, she was to hang head downward half of the time.

Looking in the N.E. sky in early evening, you can pick out the outline of Cassiopeia sitting in her chair. For part of the night she sits proudly upright, but as the evening progresses, and the constellation rotates around the North Star (Polaris), Cassiopeia hangs head down.