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In Greek mythology, Cassiopeia was the beautiful but boastful queen of Ethiopia. While her beauty could never be questioned, her vanity became her tragic legacy.
The sea god Nereus was the proud father of many lovely nymph-daughters known as Nerieds. When Cassiopeia proclaimed that she and her daughter Andromeda were more beautiful than any of them, she invoked the scorn of the ruling sea god Poseidon.
His raging waters would destroy her kingdom unless she was tied to a chair in the sky and Andromeda was sacrificed.
Cassiopeia can still be seen in the northern skies today, with her throne circling the celestial pole and her arm desperately hanging on.
Those who gaze at the stars in the northern celestial hemisphere are treated year-round to the sight of one of the world’s most famous constellations. Ursa Major (Latin for ‘the larger/greater she-bear’) has been a key feature of astronomy, navigation and folklore since its declaration by Ptolemy in the Second Century AD.
The constellation (whose seven most prominent stars are commonly known as the ‘Big Dipper’) has captured the imagination of many around the world, as evidenced through its many myths.
From June to December each year, stargazers in the northern hemisphere can observe the night sky to see the Milky Way and find Cygnus, the 16th largest of the 88 modern constellations. Featuring the famous Northern Cross, it is named after the Latin word for ‘swan’. This graceful celestial bird has crossed generations capturing imaginations and appearing in many a piece of classical folklore.
Before receiving the name Cygnus it was believed to resemble Roc, the huge bird featured in tales of Sinbad the Sailor. Ancient Greeks told tales of the ever-amorous Zeus disguising himself as a swan to capture the attention of Leda, who then spawned children who were immortalised in swan form in the sky. Many stories also feature mythical characters falling to their demise before pleading with Zeus to transform them into swans.
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