Perseus the Hero

Mythology

Perseus is said to be the son of Zeus and Danae. His grandfather King Acrisius was told by a cleric that his daughter's son would kill him. Acrisius decided to take no chances and set Danae and Perseus adrift in a wooden chest, hoping the sea would carry them away and they would perish. Fate was kind to the two however, and only the next day they were blown ashore on an island where they befriended the fisherman and soon had a happy home. Then the King Polydectes fell in love with Danae, but did not want Perseus in the picture. And so Polydectes let it be known that, above all else, he wished for the head of Medusa as a wedding present. Eager to please, Perseus set off to win the prize. With some magical items given him by some of the other gods, Perseus was able to slay Medusa. Flying home aboard Pegasus, the winged horse, Perseus made a detour to accomodate the rescue of Andromeda.

For the Observer

Autumn and Winter Skies

Alpha Persei, Mirfak (03h 24 m +49°52m) Mirfak is a white class F5 supergiant, 500 light years distant. Its magnitude is 1.8. Mirfak is part of a group of stars called the Alpha Persei Association. These are young stars, older than the Pleiades though. Much of the gas and dust that surrounded them during their birth has gone. Only a few wispy tendrils remain that can be seen in binoculars. There are about 100 young stars in this group, most of which are very massive type B stars.

Beta Persei, Algol (03h 08m +40°57') The name Algol means the head of the demon, and it is associated with the head of Medusa that Perseus killed. The star is a blue-white class B8 star about 105 light years distant. The real fame for Algol though, is that it is without a doubt the best known variable star. Algol is eclipsed by a companion with a period of 2 days 20 hours. The magnitude varies from 2.1 to 3.4. Algol is actually a 3 star system, the third component can be found with spectroscopy. The primary component in the system has a surface temperature of about 10,100 K and is about 3 times the diameter of our Sun. The B component is slightly larger but with a lower temperature around 4500K. The A and B stars are so physically close that there is a bridge of material streaming to the hotter star.

Epsilon Persei (03h 58m +40°01') This blue-white class B0 star has a magnitude of 2.9 and is about 700 light years distant. It is also a double star, a blue star of class A2. Both are main sequence stars and have masses about 6.5 times that of the Sun. Because of this large size, they will only spend about 30 million years on the main sequence.

H-H 12 the Herbig-Haro Object (4h 29m +35°13') This is a faint patch of nebulosity about 7 to the southwest of Epsilon Persei. It is a molecular cloud feature caused by starbirth. These features are believed to be gasses emitted from protostars that form a disk around the star. The material jets out around the polar regions of the disk which push other surrounding gasses away from the protostar.

M34 (NGC 1039) (02h38.8m +42°34') is a bright open cluster easily spotted with a small scope or binoculars. There are about 80 stars in this 5.2 magnitude cluster. The group is about 18 light years across and about 1500 light years distant.

M76 (NGC 650) (01h38.8m +51°19') This is a faint irregular planetary nebula, often called the barbell nebula. It has a magnitude of 11 and is about 1 light year across and 1700 light years distant.

NGC 869 and NGC 884 (mean position 02h17.2m +56°54') The great double cluster in Perseus and one of the finest sights to see in a small telescope or binoculars. There are about 700 stars between the two clusters and they can even been seen without visual aid as a hazy patch in Perseus near Cassopeia.

NGC 1342 (03h42m +37°09') is an irregular galactic cluster of about 50 stars around magnitude 8.

NGC 1513 (04h06.2m +49°23') has about 40 stars of magnitude 11. It is a galactic cluster with an overall magnitude of 9.

NGC 1528 (04h11.4m +51°07') Galactic cluster of about 80 stars, average magnitude of 6.

Copyright © 1995 - 2003
Kathy Miles, Author, and Chuck Peters, Systems Administrator
contact@88constellations.com.