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Cetus

The Whale or Sea Monster

Abbreviation: Cet
Genitive: Ceti

The constellation of Cetus

In Greek mythology, King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia of Æthiopia (what we call the Upper Nile region) had a daughter named Andromeda. Cassiopeia boasted that she and her daughter was more beautiful than the Nereids, the sea nymphs who often accompanied Poseiden, god of the seas. As punishment, Poseiden sent a sea monster, Cetus, to ravage the coast of Æthopia. In desperation, Cepheus consulted an oracle who informed him that to appease Poseiden, Cepheus must sacrifice his daughter Andromeda to the sea monster. Thus, Andromeda was stripped naked and chained to the rocks on the coast of the sea. Fortunately for her, Perseus was passing by, having just slain the Gorgon Medusa. He killed the sea monster and set Andromeda free, claiming her as his bride.

Although Cetus is not a member of the zodiac, the ecliptic passes close to the constellation boundary and thus, planets and asteroids can stray into this constellation.

Notable Features

Designation Name Description
α Cet Menkar
β Cet Diphda
ζ Cet Baten Kaitos
ο Cet Mira The word mira means 'wonderful' in Latin. It was the first variable star discovered (in 1596) and is the prototype for long-period pulsating Mira variables. It varies between second and tenth magnitude over a cycle that is slightly less than a year.
τ Cet Although this star has no common name, it is one of the closest stars to the Sun and one of the few nearby stars that is visible to the naked eye.
BL Cet, UV Cet Although less than 9 light years from Earth, BL Cet is too faint to see with the naked eye. Its companion, UV Cet, is slightly closer but still can't be seen without a telescope. UV Cet is the prototype of the class of flare stars (variable stars which undergo unpredictable and dramatic increases of brightness over the space of a few minutes) called UV Ceti variables. This binary system is found near the star τ Cet on the sky map.
M77 This is a face-on spiral galaxy, only visible through a telescope. It is the brightest of a class of objects known as Seyfert galaxies, galaxies with active nuclei.
C51 C51 is an irregular dwarf galaxy and a member of the Local Group of galaxies. To see it you must use a medium-size telescope.
C56 This is a planetary nebula and a small telescope is necessary to view it.
C62 This spiral galaxy is visible through a telescope.