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Perseus and Andromeda

Updated on November 8, 2014

History and Astronomy

Perseus and Andromeda are characters from ancient Greek mythology. Both have a place in the sky as constellations and so, each night when the stars come out, we can be reminded of their love story from the ancient past - a love story that plays eternally in the night sky. Read about their love story, discover their constellations in the sky and have some fun with history and astronomy!

The myth

Andromeda was the beautiful daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia in the kingdom of Aethiopia. Andromeda bragged of her beauty claiming that she was more beautiful than the Nereids, who were the daughters of the sea god Poseidon. Poseidon was angered by such claims as no mortal could equal the children of the great gods. Maliciously, Poseidon sent Cetus, a sea monster to ravage the kingdom of Cepheus and Cassiopeia. The rulers were told that the only way to soothe the god was to sacrifice their own daughter to the monster. And so, Andromeda was chained to a rock along the coastline. It was here, while Andromeda faced the sea, and her impeding doom, that Perseus first saw her.

Perseus, the hero

Perseus was made a hero because he defeated the gorgon Medusa by chopping off her head. Medusa had hair of snakes and could turn anyone to stone with her stare. Perseus was able to succeed in defeating the gorgon and was returning from this battle, wearing winged sandals and carrying the ugly head in a magical bag. When Perseus flew over the rock to which Andromeda was chained he was intrigued at what he saw. When the hero joined the girl on the rock he fell in love with her beauty and learned of her fate. He vowed to save Andromeda from the sea monster and as Cetus rose out of the water Perseus prepared for battle.

The battle

There are differing accounts of how Perseus defeated Cetus. Some say he used his sword to stab the monster and others claim he pulled the head of Medusa out of the magical bag and Cetus turned to stone and sank. Either way, Cetus was defeated and Andromeda was freed. Perseus and Andromeda were then married. Later, when Perseus and Andromeda died they were given honoured places among the stars.

I had this dream, and I really wanted to be a star. And I was almost a monster in the way that I was really fearless with my ambitions.

Lady Gaga

Perseus constellation
Perseus constellation

The constellations

Perseus

The constellations of Perseus, Andromeda and Cetus can be found most clearly in the winter sky and only in the northern hemisphere. While facing the Southern horizon, first look for the Little Dipper, this is a small ladle just above the Big Dipper. From the tip of the handle of the Little Dipper follow up and to the right. Here you can find Perseus. This cluster of stars resembling the letter Y lying on its side depicts Perseus with a sword in one hand and the head of Medusa in the other.

Andromeda constellation
Andromeda constellation

The constellations

Andromeda

Andromeda is up and to the left of the brightest star of Perseus. Andromeda is represented as the figure of a woman with her arms outstretched and chained at the wrists. This constellation is like two long spider legs hanging out of the sky.

Cetus constellation
Cetus constellation

The constellations

Cetus the sea monster

From Andromeda's left wrist, looking up and slightly to the right , you will reach the tip of Cetus' nose. This is It is one of the largest constellations known and therefore the full constellation can only be seen October to January.

What kind of sea monster is Cetus?

Cetus constellation outline
Cetus constellation outline

Take the outline of the constellation and draw a sea monster.

The eternal love story

The constant movement of the Earth causes the constellations to change their positions in the sky. As the Earth rotates, the constellations move across the horizon. This effect makes it look as if Cetus is forever chasing Andromeda, but she is always protected by her love, Perseus.

wordsearch puzzle
wordsearch puzzle

Find all the characters from the story in the wordsearch puzzle.

What do you think of this love story? - Thanks for reading!

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    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 5 years ago

      Bonus fact: the Andromeda galaxy (our closest neighboring spiral galaxy, located in the constellation Andromeda) is moving toward us, and will collide with the Milky Way in a few billion years.

      Well done!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Very interesting. I don't know my Greek mythology and this was an interesting read.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I learned something new about constellations-thanks!