Algol is the Demon Star


Find Algol the Demon Star within the constellation Perseus on autumn evenings. Perseus lies under the easy-to-recognize W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia.

Why the Demon Star?

What’s the scariest star within the sky? If you have been one of many early stargazers, you might need chosen Algol within the constellation Perseus. Early astronomers nicknamed Algol the Demon Star. Shivers!

When you have a look at Algol, it doesn’t seem any scarier that every other star. In skylore it’s related to a legendary scary monster – the Gorgon, Medusa – who had snakes for hair. Legend stated that her look was so terrifying that if anybody even checked out her they might flip to stone.

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The star Algol takes its identify from an Arabic phrase which means the Demon’s Head or, actually the Ghoul. It represents the terrifying snaky head of the Medusa monster.

In the mythology of the skies, Perseus – an amazing hero typically depicted mounted on Pegasus the Flying Horse – slayed Medusa. Then, he used Medusa’s head to his benefit, exhibiting it to Cetus the ocean monster to show him into stone. Perhaps the ancients related this star’s variable brightness with the evil, winking eye of the Medusa.

The Gorgon Medusa had snakes in place of hair. Eek! Via Wikimedia and Caravaggio
The Gorgon Medusa had snakes instead of hair. Eek! Image by way of Wikimedia/ Caravaggio.

Algol is a variable star

Winking? Yes. Algol is a recognized variable star, which waxes and wanes in brightness.

The early stargazers absolutely knew about its altering brightness. This most likely led them to call the unusually behaving star in a sky filled with steadily shining stars for a mythological demon.

There are many variable stars recognized all through the heavens, however Algol would possibly effectively be probably the most well-known of all of them. The Demon Star brightens and dims with clockwork regularity, finishing one cycle in two days, 20 hours, and 49 minutes. Plus, you may view its whole cycle together with your eye alone.

Algol’s variation is simple to watch. At its brightest, Algol shines about 3 times extra brightly than at its faintest. When it reaches most brilliance, Algol matches the brightness of the close by second-magnitude star Almach. At minimal, Algol’s mild output fades to that of the star Epsilon Persei.

Modern-day astronomy has unlocked the key of Algol’s temper swings. It’s an eclipsing binary star. This sort of binary consists of two stars, with every star revolving across the different. From Earth, we see the orbital aircraft of this binary star virtually precisely edge-on. Therefore, when the dimmer of the 2 stars swings in entrance of the brighter star, we see Algol at minimal brightness.

Larger and smaller stars rotate around each other with graph of brightness.
Animation of an eclipsing binary star. Image by way of Wikimedia Commons

How to search out Algol

The Demon Star straightforward to search out. Our sky chart reveals the northeastern sky for autumn evenings, particularly round Halloween.

The conspicuous W or M-shaped constellation Cassiopeia lets you star-hop to Perseus. Look under Cassiopeia towards the horizon to identify the dangling icicle form of Perseus. Off to the best of the icicle is Algol. At mid-northern latitudes, the Demon Star seems for a minimum of a part of the night time all yr spherical. But it’s finest seen within the night sky from autumn to spring. It’s seen within the northeast sky in autumn, shines excessive overhead in winter, then swings to the northwest sky by spring.

Antique star chart etching with Greek hero with sword in one hand and Medusa's head in the other.
Perseus and Medusa from Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius. Image by way of Wikimedia Commons.

Bottom line: Algol has the nickname the Demon Star as a result of it represents the top of Medusa. This variable star most likely intrigued the ancients with its inconstant conduct.

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