I may have uncovered the archetype beneath badly drawn female anatomy, and no, I don't mean the Venus of Willendorf.

News from Perseus, which seems to be a busy part of the sky this time of year. The scientists who located the first of almost 250 planets known to be outside our solar system have announced a new planet that almost matches ours in its distance from its sun, with a year of 360 days. Bad news is, the star it circles is a Red Giant that's eaten up the equivalent orbits of Mercury and Venus and long since baked away any water or life that might have been there.

My friends and relatives who live away from city lights are used to me pestering them this time of year, because August 12 is when I start lurking in their back yards to watch for the Perseids, a thick meteor shower that seems to come out of that part of the sky. The light circled in red above, NGC1275 or Perseus A, is the source of a strong radio signal of unknown origin. At these distances there's no connection, but fun for a writer to play with-- shades of Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star".

The winking eye of the gorgon's head in Perseus' hand, Algol, was called Ras Al Ghul by the medieval Arabs, "head of the demon" (and gave its name to a Batman villain). It's the only binary star we can see with the naked eye, that darkens every couple of days when the smaller of the two stars passes behind its companion.

I can only reliably find about five constellations without a map and both hands. I usually find Perseus by first looking for the W or upside down M in the sky. The professionals call it Cassiopeia, the queen on her throne, but my wife and her sister have renamed her "Dirty Mud Flap Girl", as you can see from the incredibly expensive graphic I've provided here.

My friend Wayne Allen Sallee plans on renaming the cities of America when he's the last survivor of the next great plague. The novelist Jim Harrison wants to rename any birds of America that labor under inadequate or unpoetic names-- "The Beige Dolorosa", one of three novellas in Julip, describes the plan. Bridget and Colleen discovered the Dirty Mud Flap as girls, during long nights on Grandma Olga's dock, and in the weird archetypal nature of these metaphors, it's an appropriate nickname.

Cassiopeia was the beautiful queen of Ethiopia, so vain that she boasted she was as beautiful as the fifty daughters of the Old Man of the Sea. Hence the connection with our chrome avatar of badly drawn female pulchritude; did Michael Turner design that thing while he was still in high school?

Cassiopeia was punished by a sea monster that ravaged the coast of Ethiopia, appeased only by sacrificing maidens. What is it with these monsters and their treasure and their maidens? They don't know what to do with either, like an obtuse millionaire with a trophy wife. They ran through all the virgins 'til there weren't any left, except for the queen's daughter Andromeda, the girl chained to the two starry pillars to the lower right of Perseus. Perseus rescued Andromeda, and thereby hangs a tale and a plot point in Clash of the Titans, by which I mean the Harryhausen film and not the legend of Power Girl's breasts.

No comments: