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Anna B. Comstock

Cassiopeia's Chair, Cepheus, and the Dragon

Teacher's Story

There are other constellations besides the two Dippers, which never rise and set in this latitude, because they are so near to the Pole-star that, when revolving around it, they do not fall below the horizon. There is one very brilliant star, called Capella, which almost belongs to the polar constellations but not quite, for it is far enough away from Polaris to dip below the horizon for four hours of the twenty-four.

Queen Cassiopeia's Chair is on the opposite side of the Pole-star from the Big Dipper and at about equal distance from it. It consists of five brilliant stars that form a W with the top toward Polaris, one-half of the W being wider than the other. There is a less brilliant sixth star which finishes out half of the W into a chair seat, making of the figure a very uneasy looking throne for a poor queen to sit upon.

King Cepheus is Queen Cassiopeia's husband, and he sits with one foot on the Pole-star quite near to his royal spouse. His constellation is marked by five stars, four of which form a lozenge, and a line connecting the two stars on the side of the lozenge farthest from Cassiopeia, if extended, will reach the Pole-star as surely as a line from the Big Dipper pointers. Cepheus is not such a shining light in the heavens as is his wife, for his stars are not so brilliant. Perhaps this is because he was only incidentally put in the skies. He was merely the consort of Queen Cassiopeia, who being a vain and jealous lady boasted that she and her daughter, Andromeda, were far more beautiful than any other goddesses that ever were, and thus incurred the wrath of Juno and Jupiter who set the whole family "sky high" and quite out of the way, a punishment which must have had its compensations since they are where the world of men may look at and admire them for all ages.

Lying between the Big and Little Dippers and extending beyond the latter is a straggling line of stars, which, if connected by a line, make a very satisfactory dragon. Nine stars form his body, three his head, the two brighter ones being the eyes.


Cassiopeia's Chair, Cepheus, and the Dragon

Leading thought—To learn to know and to map the constellations which are so near the Pole-star that they never rise or set in our latitude, but seem to swing around the North Star once in twenty-four hours.

Method—Place on the blackboard the diagram given showing the Pole-star, Big and Little Dippers and Cassiopeia's Chair, and ask for observations and sketches showing their position in the skies the following evening. After the pupils have observed the Chair and know it, add to your diagram, first Cepheus and then the Dragon. After you are sure the pupils know these constellations, give the following lesson. The observations should be made early and late in the same evening and at different times of the month, so that pupils will in every case note the apparent movement of these stars around Polaris.


1. How many stars form Cassiopeia's Chair? Make a drawing showing them and their relation to the Pole-star.

2. Is the Queen's Chair on the same side of the Pole-star as the Big Dipper? Is the top or the bottom of the "W" which forms Cassiopeia's Chair turned toward the Pole-star?

3. Does Cassiopeia's Chair move around the Pole-star, like the Big Dipper?

4. How many stars mark the constellation of Cepheus?

5. Make a sketch of these stars and show the two which are pointers toward the North Star.

6. Does Cepheus also move around the Pole-star, and in which direction?

7. Describe where the Dragon lies, and where are his tail and his head in relation to the two Dippers. Make a sketch of the Dragon.

8. Why do all the popular constellations seem to move around the Pole-star every twenty-four hours, and why do they seem to go in a direction opposite the movement of the hands of a clock? What do we mean by "Polar constellations"?

Topics for English Themes—The Story of Queen Cassiopeia, King Cepheus and their daughter, Andromeda; the story of the Dragon.

Supplementary reading—Storyland of the Stars, Pratt.