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Perseus

The Champion

Abbreviation: Per
Genitive: Persei
Origin: [antiquity]

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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
Lyrids Confusingly, the radiant for the Perseid meteor shower lies just inside the border of the neighbouring constellation Cassiopeia.
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.
η Per Miram
ξ Per Menkib
κ Per Misam
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.