Cetus the Whale
 Cetus is the fourth largest constellation in the sky.  He represents the sea  monster Typhon in Greek mythology and can be found paddling along the shores of Eridanus the River.  Typhon was prone to rampaging across the country side and appears in several tales, one of them is described under Capricornus.  Eventually Typhon was imprisoned under Mount Etna. 

In the sky Cetus is  linked to the constellations of  Andromeda, Perseus, Cassiopea and Cepheus.  After Perseus had slain Medusa and was carrying her head home, he flew over Andromeda, daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopea, chained to a rock by the sea as an offering to Cetus.  Cetus appeared just as Perseus swooped down to take a closer look.  Since Cetus was so large Perseus showed the head of Medusa to Cetus, so turning the monster to stone, then rescued Andromeda from her chains. 

An excerpt from Johan van Keulen's Boeck zee-kaardt, 1709.
The head of the Whale lies near Aries and Taurus,
while it's body splashes in Eridanus the River.

The brightest star, alpha (a) Ceti, is also known as Menkar, meaning Nose.  At the far end of the constellation lies beta (b) Ceti, known both as Deneb Kaitos, the Tail of the Whale, and Difda.  Difda derives from the Arabic name for this star, the Second Frog (the First Frog being nearby Fomalhaut, which means Mouth of the Fish). 

Tau (t) Ceti is also worth mentioning as it is a close star, only 11.7 light years away and almost identical to our own.  For this reason it has often been the target of both study and literary speculation in the hope that signs of life may be found there.

Mira, the Wonderful, designated as omicron (o) Ceti, was the first recognised variable star.  On average it swings from magnitude 2 to 9 every 331 days.  Maxima and minima may vary considerably in both time and magnitude.  It has been known to reach magnitude 1.7 and sometimes only magnitude 5.   It was first discovered by Dutchman David Fabricius, a pupil of Tycho Brahe on 13th August 1596. 

This article is ©2002 Stargazers Astronomy Shop

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