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The Night Sky: Cassoipeia

The constellation Cassiopeia is high in the Northern sky

Attached is a wide angle picture I took of the constellation Cassiopeia. This time of year it can be found high in the Northern sky. The stars of Cassiopeia form an unmistakable ‘M’ shape in the winter sky and a ‘W’ shape in the summer.

As the Earth travels around the Sun during the year it changes our point of view and causes the constellations to slowly rotate around the North Star. Constellations far from the North Star can only be seen at certain times of the year, and then go below the horizon. Constellations close to the North Star never go below our horizon. If a star or constellation never sets it is said to be Circumpolar. Cassiopeia is a circumpolar constellation; it is always in the sky from where we live on earth.

The Milky Way runs through this part of the sky, so we see countless gas clouds and star clusters here. Two star clusters (circled near the upper right of the picture) form the famous Double Cluster. I’ll send a close up picture of the Double Cluster in a future blog.

An interesting fact…

If we could travel over 4 light years to Alpha Centauri (the closest star to us) and look back at our Sun from there, our Sun would appear to be placed in the constellation Cassiopeia and continue the zigzag pattern up towards the Double Cluster. Our Sun would look yellow-White and slightly brighter than the other stars in Cassiopeia from that distance. It makes one wonder what sort of constellation any intelligent life that may live on a planet there would imagine from such zigzag shaped stars. A snake?

It is good to remember that our Sun is one of billions of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. It reminds us that there is still so much to discover and explore.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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