|Pronunciation||//, genitive //|
|Symbolism||the Whale, Shark, or Sea Monster|
|Right ascension||00h 26m 22.2486s–03h 23m 47.1487s|
|Area||1231 sq. deg. (4th)|
|Stars with planets||23|
|Stars brighter than 3.00m||2|
|Stars within 10.00 pc (32.62 ly)||9|
|Brightest star||β Cet (Deneb Kaitos)† (2.04m)|
|Nearest star||Luyten 726-8
(8.73 ly, 2.68 pc)
|Meteor showers||October Cetids
|Visible at latitudes between +70° and −90°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of November.
Note: †Mira (ο Cet) is magnitude 2.0 at its brightest.
Cetus (//) is a constellation. Its name refers to Cetus, a sea monster in Greek mythology, although it is often called 'the whale' today. Cetus is located in the region of the sky that contains other water-related constellations such as Aquarius, Pisces, and Eridanus.
Although Cetus is not generally considered part of the zodiac, the ecliptic passes less than a quarter of a degree from its constellation boundary, and thus the moon, planets, and even part of the sun may be in Cetus for brief periods of time. This is all the more true of asteroids, since their orbits usually have a greater inclination to the ecliptic than the moon and planets. For example, the asteroid 4 Vesta was discovered in this constellation in 1807.
The most notable star in Cetus is Mira ("the Wonderful"), designated Omicron Ceti, the first variable star to be discovered and the prototype of its class. Over a period of 332 days it reaches a maximum apparent magnitude of 3 - visible to the naked eye - and dips to a minimum magnitude of 10, invisible to the unaided eye. Its seeming appearance and disappearance gave it its common name, which means "the amazing one". Mira pulsates with a minimum size of 400 solar diameters and a maximum size of 500 solar diameters. 420 light-years from Earth, it was discovered by David Fabricius in 1596.
There are several other bright stars in Cetus. α Ceti, traditionally called Menkar ("the nose"), is a red-hued giant star of magnitude 2.5, 220 light-years from Earth. It is a wide double star; the secondary is 93 Ceti, a blue-white hued star of magnitude 5.6, 440 light-years away. β Ceti, also called Deneb Kaitos and Diphda, is the brightest star in Cetus. It is an orange-hued giant star of magnitude 2.0, 96 light-years from Earth. The traditional name "Deneb Kaitos" means "the whale's tail". γ Ceti, Kaffaljidhma ("head of the whale") is a very close double star. The primary is a yellow-hued star of magnitude 3.5, 82 light-years from Earth, and the secondary is a blue-hued star of magnitude 6.6. Tau Ceti, or Durre Menthor, is noted for being the nearest Sun-like star at a distance of 11.9 light-years. It is a yellow-hued main-sequence star of magnitude 3.5.
AA Ceti is a triple star system; the brightest member has a magnitude of 6.2. The primary and secondary are separated by 8.4 arcseconds at an angle of 304 degrees. The tertiary is not visible in telescopes. AA Ceti is an eclipsing variable star; the tertiary star passes in front of the primary and causes the system's apparent magnitude to decrease by 0.5 magnitudes. UV Ceti is an unusual binary variable star. 8.7 light-years from Earth, the system consists of two red dwarfs. both of magnitude 13. One of the stars is a flare star, which are prone to sudden, random outbursts that last several minutes; these increase the pair's apparent brightness significantly - as high as magnitude 7.
Cetus lies far from the galactic plane, so that many distant galaxies are visible, unobscured by dust from the Milky Way. Of these, the brightest is Messier 77 (NGC 1068), a 9th magnitude spiral galaxy near Delta Ceti. It appears face-on and has a clearly visible nucleus of magnitude 10. About 50 million light-years from Earth, M77 is also a Seyfert galaxy and thus a bright object in the radio spectrum. Recently, the galactic cluster JKCS 041 was confirmed to be the most distant cluster of galaxies yet discovered.
NGC 246 (Caldwell 56), also called the Cetus Ring, is a planetary nebula with a magnitude of 8.0, 1600 light-years from Earth. Among some amateur astronomers, NGC 246 has garnered the nickname "Pac-Man Nebula" because of the arrangement of its central stars and the surrounding star field.
History and mythology
Cetus may have originally been associated with a whale, which would have had mythic status amongst Mesopotamian cultures. It is often now called the Whale, though it is most strongly associated with Cetus the sea-monster, who was slain by Perseus as he saved the princess Andromeda from Poseidon's wrath. Cetus is located in a region of the sky called "The Sea" because many water-associated constellations are placed there, including Eridanus, Pisces, Piscis Austrinus, Capricornus, and Aquarius. Cetus has been depicted many ways throughout its history. In the 17th century, Cetus was depicted as a "dragon fish" by Johann Bayer. Both Willem Blaeu and Andreas Cellarius depicted Cetus as a whale-like creature in the same century. However, Cetus has also been variously depicted with animal heads attached to a piscine body.
In global astronomy
The Brazilian Tukano and Kobeua people used the stars of Cetus to create a jaguar, representing the god of hurricanes and other violent storms. Lambda, Mu, Xi, Nu, Gamma, and Alpha Ceti represented its head; Omicron, Zeta, and Chi Ceti represented its body; Eta Eri, Tau Cet, and Upsilon Cet marked its legs and feet; and Theta, Eta, and Beta Ceti delineated its tail.
- "Cetus, constellation boundary". The Constellations (International Astronomical Union). Retrieved 15 February 2014.
- Ridpath & Tirion 2001, pp. 114-116.
- Levy 2005, p. 67.
- "Hubble observes the hidden depths of Messier 77". ESA/Hubble. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
- "Scientists identify new galaxy". Metro. 23 October 2009.
- Levy 2005, p. 129.
- Staal 1988, pp. 33–35
- Makemson 1941, p. 281.
- Levy, David H. (2005). Deep Sky Objects. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-59102-361-0.
- Makemson, Maud Worcester (1941). The Morning Star Rises: an account of Polynesian astronomy. Yale University Press.
- Ridpath, Ian; Tirion, Wil (2001), Stars and Planets Guide, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-08913-2
- Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion (2007). Stars and Planets Guide, Collins, London. ISBN 978-0-00-725120-9. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 978-0-691-13556-4
- Staal, Julius D.W. (1988). The New Patterns in the Sky. The McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company. ISBN 0-939923-04-1.
|Look up cetus in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cetus.|
- The Deep Photographic Guide to the Constellations: Cetus
- Star Tales – Cetus
- Cetus Constellation at Constellation Guide