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Cetus the Whale swims in a celestial sea

If you’re keen to seek out Cetus the Whale, you can begin trying as quickly because it will get darkish on December evenings. Look southeast to seek out it nonetheless near the horizon. If you wait just a few hours till it’s really darkish and simpler to identify the dimmer stars, Cetus can be greater within the sky above the southern horizon.

Cetus the Whale is a protracted constellation that rises within the east-southeast on fall evenings. It’s the fourth largest of the 88 constellations, dropping out solely to Ursa Major, Virgo and Hydra. Cetus lies under Pisces the Fish and Eridanus the River to create a lovely sea-themed space of the evening sky. From December 11 to 14, 2021, the moon will go above Cetus, beginning close to the tail, crossing above the physique and ending close to the whale’s head. This provides you an incredible alternative to find and be taught a few of its stars.

The mythology of Cetus

In Greek mythology, Cetus was a fearsome sea monster. Cetus almost ate Andromeda the Chained Lady earlier than Perseus arrived and saved the day, slaying Cetus. Depending on the parable you learn, Cetus both meets its destiny on the sword of Perseus or by turning to stone after viewing the severed head of Medusa.

Star chart showing an antique color drawing of a sea-monster superimposed on stars.
An outline of Cetus the Sea-Monster or Whale from Urania’s Mirror, a set of 32 constellation playing cards first revealed in 1824. Image through Wikimedia Commons.

The Stars of Cetus the Whale

The brightest star within the head of Cetus is Menkar, shining at magnitude 2.54. It’s the second brightest star in Cetus and in addition goes by the identify Alpha Ceti. The star that marks the place the whale’s head joins its neck is the three.47-magnitude star Kaffaljidhma, or Gamma Ceti. Moving towards the physique of the whale is Delta Ceti at magnitude 4.08. Delta can be helpful later for locating Cetus’ one outstanding galaxy.

The subsequent star within the physique of the whale is the well-known Mira, with the nickname of The Wonderful. Mira, or Omicron Ceti, is a well-liked variable star, which is one which modifications in brightness. This long-period variable star can get as shiny as magnitude 2 and as dim as magnitude 10. When you evaluate it to the opposite stars in Cetus, how shiny does Mira look tonight? Another curious characteristic of Mira is that it’s dashing by means of space at 290,000 miles per hour (130 km/s). This immense pace and the truth that Mira is nearing the top of its life and ejecting materials means the fantastic star sports activities a tail that stretches for an unbelievable 13 light-years.

The brightest star in Cetus goes by three completely different names: Beta Ceti, Diphda and Deneb Kaitos. This star shines at magnitude 2.0 and lies within the tail of the beast.

Galaxies in Cetus the Whale

The one Messier object in Cetus is the galaxy M77. It lies only a degree east-southeast of the star Delta Ceti. M77 shines at magnitude 8.8 from 47 million light-years away. The face-on spiral galaxy has an energetic galactic nucleus and a noticeably shiny heart. Those with giant telescopes could possibly catch one other galaxy between Delta Ceti and M77. The magnitude-10.6 galaxy NGC 1055 resides there.

An elongated spiral galaxy with red dots along the dusty spiral arms and a bright center.
The spiral galaxy M77 is the one Messier object in Cetus the Whale. Image through Hubble Space Telescope/ Wikimedia Commons.

Nebulae in Cetus the Whale

One notable planetary nebula lies six levels north of the brightest star Diphda, or Deneb Kaitos. NGC 246 has a magnitude of 8. The nebula has a bubble- or ring-shaped look. Planetary nebulae come into being when stars puff off materials towards the top of their lives. Mira will ultimately create one other planetary nebula in Cetus when it ends its life and ejects its remaining gasoline. As a becoming moniker for a star that has given up the ghost, NGC 246 additionally bears the nickname of the Skull Nebula.

Electric blue ring with reddish interior and central bluish star.
NGC 246, a planetary nebula in Cetus the Whale, additionally earns the nickname of the Skull Nebula. Image through Goran Nilsson/ The Liverpool Telescope/ Wikimedia Commons.

Bottom line: Cetus the Whale is a big constellation that swims in a sea of stars close to constellations named for a river and fish. Its most notable star is Mira the Wonderful.

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