The Champion

Abbreviation: Per
Genitive: Persei

The constellation of Perseus

In Greek mythology, King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia of Æthiopia (what we call the Upper Nile region) had a daughter named Andromeda. Cassiopeia boasted that she and her daughter was more beautiful than the Nereids, the sea nymphs who often accompanied Poseiden, god of the seas. As punishment, Poseiden sent a sea monster, Cetus, to ravage the coast of Æthopia. In desperation, Cepheus consulted an oracle who informed him that to appease Poseiden, Cepheus must sacrifice his daughter Andromeda to the sea monster. Thus, Andromeda was stripped naked and chained to the rocks on the coast of the sea. Fortunately for her, Perseus was passing by, having just slain the Gorgon Medusa. He killed the sea monster and set Andromeda free, claiming her as his bride.

Perseus was a demi-god, son of Zeus and the mortal Danaë. He slew Medusa, the only mortal Gorgon, and cut off her head. (Pegasus sprang from the blood of Medusa.) After using the fearsome object in several adventures (including the saving of Andromeda), he gave the head to the goddess Athena who affixed it to her shield.

He was also the legendary founder of the Greek state of Mycenae which figures prominently in the tales of the Trojan War. In addition, the classical hero Heracles (Hercules to the Romans) was both the great-grandson and half-brother of Perseus!

Notable Features

Designation Name Description
Perseids This August meteor shower is perhaps the most famous of them all. The meteors are fast and bright with many leaving trains, producing more colours than any other shower. Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle is associated with this shower and since its return in 1992, this meteor shower has produced fine spectacles. The radiant is in the northern part of the constellation and is quite high in the sky for northern hemisphere observers.
α Per Mirfak
β Per Algol Algol means 'the demon's head' and represents the head of the Medusa. It is the prototype Algol eclipsing binary variable star and its varying magnitude is easily observable with the naked eye.
ξ Per Menkib
ο Per Atik In the past, the name Atik has sometimes been assigned to ζ Per.
M34 Optical aids are necessary in order to observe this open star cluster.
M76 Butterfly Nebula, Little Dumbbell Nebula This planetary nebula may be the faintest and most difficult object in Messier's list to observe.
C14 Double Cluster Situated near the star χ Per, this object is actually two open star clusters and a beautiful site through binoculers. The cluster is also popularly known as h and χ Persei.
C24 This object, a Seyfert galaxy, is situated near the centre of the Perseus Cluster of galaxies. A medium-size telescope is necessary to observe it.
Cr 39 α Persei Cluster The star α Per is the brightest member of this open cluster of stars.