I figured since we just discussed Cassiopeia and her daughter, Andromeda, we should move on to Perseus. If you recall from the last Stargazing 101 blog post, Perseus saved Andromeda by slaying the monster Poseidon sent. Here is his story!
Perseus was well known as a hero. He was born into royalty on his mother’s side, who’s father was the king of Argos. The king was given a prophecy that his grandson would kill him, so he locked up his daughter, Danae, in hopes she would never procreate and fulfill the prophecy. Zeus had other plans for the princess. The king discovered that his daughter was pregnant and furiously locked her and the child in a wooden chest and threw them out to sea.
Their voyage took them to the island of Seriphos where they were met with hospitality and kept safe. The king of the island, Polydectes, sent Perseus on a dangerous mission that no man had been able to complete. He was told to bring back the head of Medusa, a surely fatal assignment. The gods were watching over him that day and he was sent help from Hermes, the messenger, and Athena, goddess of war and wisdom. With their assistance, he beheaded Medusa and began his travel home. It was on his way there that he found Andromeda.
When his heroic story made it’s way around the lands, Perseus was invited to participate in games to honor a deceased king. Argos was attending these funeral games, each not knowing of the other, and while throwing the discus Perseus accidentally hit Argos and killed him.
Algol is a very famous star located in the cluster that makes up Perseus. It is the white “star” in the right leg of the man-shaped constellation. “Algol” is the Arabic word for “head of the demon” and it is said that this star is supposed to represent the eye of Medusa. What is even more interesting is that this star is a binary star and has another, dimmer star revolving around it. Since it is a variable star, it brightens and dims and almost looks as if it’s winking! If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you can see Perseus best in the winter.