Perseus (constellation): location, mythology and characteristics
The constellation Perseus is located in the northern hemisphere. It is one of the largest constellations and is neighbor to the Andromeda constellation. Taking into account its size, it occupies the 24th position among the 88 existing constellations.
Perseus is an almost circumpolar constellation – that is, it rarely reaches the horizon – which makes it easy to visualize. Many people find it similar to the letter “K” in the alphabet, given its shape.
Its name derives from the Greek hero Perseus, who with one hand holds up a diamond sword and with the other displays the decapitated head of Medusa.
The constellation Perseus gained its reputation for the famous Perseid rain, which is a meteor shower that can be seen around San Lorenzo Day (August 10); therefore, they are also called “the tears of San Lorenzo”.
The path of this shower of stars is born in the constellation of Perseus, but it is not related to the constellation.
The constellation Perseus is located in the Milky Way, in the northern hemisphere between +90° and –35° latitude, and its distance from Earth is 6400 light-years.
To locate it in the sky with ease, many people turn to the location of the nearby constellations. The constellations to the north of Perseus are Cassiopeia and Cameolopardis, to the south are Aries and Taurus, to the east is Auriga and to the west are Andromeda and Triangle.
The constellation Perseus can be observed for much of the year by inhabitants of the northern hemisphere; The months in which it is easier to observe its stars vary from August to April. On the other hand, for the inhabitants of the southern hemisphere, it is a difficult constellation to perceive.
According to Greek mythology, Perseus was a Greek demigod. He was the son of Danae, who was locked in a bronze tower by his father Acisio, who was the king of Argos. The confinement took place because, according to the oracle, Acrisius would be killed by his grandson.
However, the god Zeus – who had a special interest in Danae – became a golden shower, in which he fell on Danae to seduce her and then impregnate her with Perseus.
Upon learning of the pregnancy, Acrisio locked Danae and Perseus in a trunk and threw him into the sea. To protect his son, Zeus asked his brother Poseidon to calm the waters so that the box reached the island of Serifos, where it was found by Dictis, who was the brother of Polydectes (king of Serifos).
Dictis and Danae
Dictis became the protector of Perseus and his mother until Polydectes fell in love with Danae. To get rid of Perseus, he orders him to take Medusa’s head to Argos in exchange for freeing his mother, a task considered impossible as she has the power to turn anyone who dares to look at her to stone.
At the beginning of the journey, Zeus asked the gods Athena and Hermes for help, who gave Perseus a bronze shield and a shining sword that could not be bent, so he could use it to cut off Medusa’s head.
Confrontation between Perseus and Medusa
Perseus entered Medusa’s cave, where his two sisters were also. He managed to make fun of them and approached Medusa using the shield as a mirror, to avoid looking directly at her. Taking advantage of the fact that she was sleeping, Perseus cut off Medusa’s head.
Perseus escaped on a winged horse that was born from the blood that had sprung from Medusa’s neck and, on his return journey, crossed the kingdom of Ethiopia, where he found the princess of his kingdom, Andromeda, chained to a cliff and given up in sacrifice by her father Cefheus, king of Ethiopia. Perseus released her and married her.
This character has returned to Serifo and tells Polidectes that he has the head of Medusa; However, Polidectes despised him and attacked his mother and Dictis, who eventually fell in love.
For this reason, Perseus took Medusa’s head and turned Polydectes to stone. In this way, he saved his mother and made Dictis king.
Kingdom of Argos
After that, Perseus returned to Argos and regained his rightful reign; Upon learning of his arrival, his grandfather Acrisio fled to Larissa. In this context, Perseus fought and defeated Black, thus obtaining the kingdom of Argos.
After a while, Perseus participated in some games organized in Larissa. By mistake, in the record release test, he beat and killed one of the people in the audience; That person turned out to be Acrisio. In this way, the prophecy was fulfilled, according to which he would kill his grandfather.
Upon learning that he had murdered his grandfather, Perseus with his uncle Megapentes changed the kingdom of Argos to that of Tyrinth, where he ended up ruling alongside Andromeda. He died of old age and his body was raised to heaven by Athena, thanks to which the constellation that bears his name was created.
Perseus is considered a great constellation; Therefore, the International Astronomical Union lists it in the 24th place of the constellations in terms of their dimensions.
In total, there are four arms that the galaxy has, which constitutes an important revision for the study of the sky. The constellation Perseus has the longest arm that borders the Milky Way.
This constellation has 158 stars. Most importantly for astronomical navigation with Mirfak and Algol.
Mirfak is in the giant star category and radiates a brightness equivalent to what 5000 suns would radiate. Its mass is equal to the mass of 8 suns and is 592 light years from Earth.
Argol is an eclipsing binary star, the first of its kind discovered in 1782 by John Goodricke.
It consists of 3 stars that, seen from Earth, cannot be separated or using the most powerful telescopes. Its luminosity varies approximately every 2 days, which implies that its stars darken and return to light.