Home Paros Life - Current Issue Backissue Nr. 8
  Nr. 8 - October 1998
  Go back ...

What’s up in the Skies this Autumn

by Veronica Laxon, October 1998
Well, the stars are always there, but what you can see when the sky is dark, changes with the seasons. The Summer Triangle is now setting in the west and Deneb (in Cygnus) is still visible but Pegasus takes centre stage. The brighter stars in Pegasus form a square (or sort of, see diagram) overhead. This "square" is huge, about the width of two fists held at arm's length.

Pegasus represents the winged horse that was born from Medusa's blood when she was beheaded by Perseus. (Remember her, head Gorgon, the ladies with snakes in their hair who changed all who looked on them to stone? ).

Pegasus is actually upside-down and if you stare long enough you can make out a crooked line of stars leading from the bottom right of the square. These are his head and his neck; and the two lines of stars leading from the top right are his forelegs. You can use the square of Pegasus to locate other interesting things like Polaris, Cassiopeia and Formalhaut. Polaris (the Pole star) and Cassiopeia are up there every night somewhere near the Plough. Polaris is very faint but Cassiopeia's little W shape (see diagram) is very easy to spot.

Cassiopeia was the wife of Cepheus (king of Ethiopia) and she boasted that she was more beautiful than the sea nymphs. This maddened Poseidon, so he sent a terrible monster (Cetus) to rampage around their country. In order to appease the monster, Cepheus chained his daughter Andromeda to a rock. If you look at the star at the top left of the diagram and follow on up diagonally, you will see a fuzzy patch of stars which represent Andromeda's galaxy. The story of Andromeda and Perseus is thought to be the ancestor of that of St George and the dragon because Perseus rescued her from her from her fate and did for the sea monster. Cetus and Cepheus are also represented in nearby constellations, but they are a bit difficult to make out. (Or if you know how, tell me.)

Andromeda is not a well-defined constellation, but you should be able to spot a faint eliptical glow in it. This is called M31, sorry about the name, but what is interesting about it is that it is another spiral galaxy, a twin of our Milky Way. It is the farthest object visible to the naked eye and the light coming from it has taken two million years to reach us. I'll leave you to translate this into miles by calculating the speed that light travels (approximately 1,090 feet per second). In other words, our ancestors hadn't even got round to walking upright, dragging women around by the hair and clubbing everything else, when the light from M31 left home.

Capella is in what I think is a difficult constellation to spot, Auriga; this chap is equally shadowy in mythology and there are various versions of who he was - a charioteer, a lame king of Athens etc. Still, it's a nice bright star and is the most northerly of the bright ones! For those interested, it is a yellow giant, with the light output of 60 suns and lies 42 million light years away from us. The last star in the diagram is Formalhaut, which is in the constellation of Piscis Australis. This is about the only bright star in the south, at present, and is mainly interesting because you cannot often see it in Northern Europe because it is so low on the horizon.

The planets: Jupiter is doing its beacon-like thing in the sky for most of the night and sets in the west just before dawn. If you are less useless than me where binoculars are concerned, you should be able to make out anything up to four of its moons. Saturn is due south in the early hours of the morning. Mars is rising in the east before dawn and you should be able to see it. In fact, if you are up before dawn, you can see these strung out in a great bow from horizon to horizon. Venus and Mercury are tucked in along with the sun, so you may not see them. Mercury is always very difficult to spot, and I have never managed it!
Go back ...
Paros Life Backissues
Feel free to browse all the old issues of Paros Life.
Looking for something specific?
> Try our search Search
Greek Island Timetables
All the schedules you have been looking for.
Paros Life Contact
Subscribe to the printed version. free newsletter ...
Paros Life Classified Ads
Find the classified ads for this month.
Greek Island Wild Flowers
Samples of some beautiful wild flowers of this Greek Island.
Paros Cookbook
Cooking recipes from Alice Meyer-Wallace's Cookbook.
Mary Godfrey's humourous illustrations of life in Paros Island.
Advertisers by categories
This magazine is financed by local businesses, so please give them your support and mention "Paros Life" if you visit or contact one of our advertisers.
Stop Global Warming
| Paros Life Backissues | About Paros Island | Other Greek Islands Travel Guides |