February 28, 2021

Starwatch: find a dark site to find Cassiopeia, the seated queen

The constellation is a constant feature of the night sky from mid-latitude northern countries

Cassiopeia, the queen, can be found in the north-western sky this week. The chart shows the view from London at 1900 GMT each evening.

In Greek mythology, Cassiopeia was arrogant and vain. Her star pattern is an elongated “W” and she is usually depicted in a sitting position to fit this shape. The constellation is a constant feature of the night sky from mid-latitude northern countries such as the UK.

Use the chart to identify the stars of Cassiopeia, then get ready to find the double cluster. You need a dark site away from street lights, and patience because your eyes will need to be dark adapted, which takes about 30 to 40 minutes. Imagine a line from Navi passing close to Ruchbah. Extend that line for twice the distance between the two stars and you will be in the vicinity of the double cluster.

These stellar nurseries each contain thousands of stars, yet will only be visible to you as faint smudges that will not be immediately obvious. Have patience, however, and they will appear like a treasure emerging from the deep. Unfortunately, Cassiopeia is not visible to anyone more than 20 degrees south.