Early fall nights can be crisp, but it’s rewarding to go out after dark on these clear, moonless evenings to see some stars and constellations in our Western Slope skies.
Rising in the northeast just after dark, you will find a group of stars that looks like a “W” on its side. These stars are part of the constellation Cassiopeia, which commemorates a queen in Greek mythology.
Although Cassiopeia never sets from our latitude, fall and winter are the best times to see this constellation, and other nearby constellations that are prominent in mythology. Some of these include Perseus, the legendary Greek hero, Cassiopeia’s daughter, Andromeda, and Cassiopeia’s husband, King Cepheus.
You can find these constellations by using a star chart or star chart app on your smart phone or tablet. Just after dark, look for the sideways “W” that marks Cassiopeia high in the northeast. Now gaze toward the eastern horizon, and you will see 4 moderately bright stars that outline a square tipped on its side. The sides of this square measure about 1.5 times the width of your fist when held at arms’ length.
This is the Great Square of Pegasus, the winged, flying horse of Greek mythology. From the northeastern- most star in the Great Square, follow a chain of 3 stars farther to the northeast. These mark part of the constellation Andromeda.
Continuing to the northeast, you will find the constellation Perseus with its two bright stars, Mirfak and Algol. Cepheus can be found above Cassiopeia, high in the northern sky.