Cepheus (constellation)

Cepheus (constellation)

Abbreviation Cep
Genitive Cephei
Pronunciation or ;
Symbolism the King/King Cepheus
Right ascension 20h 01m 56.4481s–09h 03m 19.7931s[1]
Declination 88.6638870°–53.3532715°[1]
Family Perseus
Area 588 sq. deg. (27th)
Main stars 7
Stars with planets 1
Stars brighter than 3.00m 1
Stars within 10.00 pc (32.62 ly) 3
Brightest star α Cep (Alderamin) (2.45m)
Nearest star Kruger 60
(13.15 ly, 4.03 pc)
Messier objects 0
Meteor showers None
Ursa Minor
Visible at latitudes between +90° and −10°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of November.

Cepheus is a constellation in the northern sky. It is named after Cepheus, King of Aethiopia in Greek mythology. It was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and remains one of the 88 modern constellations. Its brightest star is Alpha Cephei with an apparent magnitude of 3.5. Delta Cephei is the prototype of an important class of star known as a Cepheid variable. RW Cephei, an orange hypergiant, together with the red supergiants Mu Cephei, VV Cephei and V354 Cephei are among the largest stars known. In addition, Cepheus also has the hyperluminous quasar S5 0014+81, hosting an ultramassive black hole in its core at 40 billion solar masses, about 10,000 times more massive than the central black hole of the Milky Way, making it the most massive black hole known in the universe.

History and mythology

Cepheus was the King of Aethiopia. He was married to Cassiopeia and was the father of Andromeda, both of whom are immortalized as modern day constellations along with Cepheus.[2]

Notable features

The constellation Cepheus as it can be seen by the naked eye.

Giant Stars

Alpha Cephei, traditionally called Alderamin, is a white hued star of magnitude 2.5, 49 light-years from Earth. Beta Cephei, traditionally called "Alfirk", is a double star with a blue-hued giant primary of magnitude 3.2 and a secondary of magnitude 7.9. The primary is a variable star considered to be the prototype of its subclass of pulsating variable stars, which are sometimes named for Beta Canis Majoris. Beta Cephei variables do not have wide ranges in magnitude, nor do they have periods longer than a few hours. Beta Cephei itself varies 0.1 magnitudes every 4.6 hours. Its traditional name means "flock" and refers to a flock of sheep. Gamma Cephei, traditionally called Errai, is an orange-hued star of magnitude 3.2, 45 light-years from Earth. Its traditional name means "the shepherd".[3] It is a binary star approximately 50 light years away from Earth. The system consists of an orange subgiant and a red Giant. Due to the precession of the equinoxes, γ Cephei will be the pole star between AD 3000 and 5200, with the closest approach to the celestial pole around AD 4000. The primary component is orbited by a planet.

Delta Cephei is the prototype Cepheid variable, a yellow-hued supergiant star 980 light-years from Earth. It was discovered to be variable by John Goodricke in 1784. It varies between 3.5m and 4.4m over a period of 5 days and 9 hours. The Cepheids are a class of pulsating variable stars; Delta Cephei has a minimum size of 40 solar diameters and a maximum size of 46 solar diameters. It is also a double star; the yellow star also has a wide-set blue-hued companion of magnitude 6.3.[4]

There are several other prominent variable stars in Cepheus. One, μ Cephei, is also known as Herschel's Garnet Star due to its deep red colour. It is a semiregular variable star with a minimum magnitude of 5.1 and a maximum magnitude of 3.4. Its period is approximately 2 years.[3] The star is around 11.8 AU in radius. If it were placed at the centre of our Solar System, it would extend to the orbit of Saturn. Another, VV Cephei A, like Mu Cephei, is a red supergiant and a semiregular variable star, located at least 5,000 light-years from Earth. It has a minimum magnitude of 5.4 and a maximum magnitude of 4.8. One of the largest stars in the galaxy, it has a diameter of 1,300 solar diameters. VV Cephei is also an unusually long-period eclipsing binary, but the eclipses, which occur every 20.3 years, are too faint to be observed with the unaided eye. T Cephei, also a red giant, is a Mira variable with a minimum magnitude of 11.3 and a maximum magnitude of 5.2, 685 light-years from Earth. It has a period of 13 months and a diameter of 500 solar diameters.[3]

There are several prominent double stars and binary stars in Cepheus. Omicron Cephei is a binary star with a period of 800 years. The system, 211 light-years from Earth, consists of an orange-hued giant primary of magnitude 4.9 and a secondary of magnitude 7.1. Xi Cephei is another binary star, 102 light-years from Earth, with a period of 4000 years. It has a blue-white primary of magnitude 4.4 and a yellow secondary of magnitude 6.5.[3]

Kruger 60 is an 11th magnitude binary star consisting of two red dwarfs. The star system is one of the nearest, being only 13 light years away from Earth.

Deep-sky objects

NGC 7354 is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Cepheus.[5]


Cepheus as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c. 1825.

Cepheus is most commonly depicted as holding his arms aloft, praying for the gods to spare the life of Andromeda. He is also depicted as a more regal monarch sitting on his throne.[2]


In Chinese astronomy, the stars of the constellation Cepheus are found in two areas: the Purple Forbidden enclosure (紫微垣, Zǐ Wēi Yuán) and the Black Tortoise of the North (北方玄武, Běi Fāng Xuán Wǔ).

In popular culture


USS Cepheus (AKA-18) and USS Cepheus (AK-265), United States navy ships.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Cepheus, constellation boundary". The Constellations (International Astronomical Union). Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Staal 1988, pp. 14–18
  3. ^ a b c d Ridpath & Tirion 2001, pp. 112-113.
  4. ^ Ridpath & Tirion 2001, pp. 112-113-114,115.
  5. ^ "Smoky Shells". ESA/Hubble Picture of the Week. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Levy 2005, p. 107.

External links

  • The Deep Photographic Guide to the Constellations: Cepheus
  • Star Tales – Cepheus
  • Cepheus Constellation at Constellation Guide