Cassiopeia is a constellation in the northern sky, named after the vain queen Cassiopeia in Greek mythology, who boasted about her unrivalled beauty. Cassiopeia was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century Greek astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations today. It is easily recognizable due to its distinctive 'W' shape, formed by five bright stars. It is opposite the Big Dipper. In northern locations above latitude 34ºN it is visible year-round and in the (sub)tropics it can be seen at its clearest from September to early November. Even in low southern latitudes below 25ºS it can be seen low in the North.
The next seven brightest stars in Cassiopeia are also all confirmed or suspected variable stars, including 50 Cassiopeiae which was not given a Greek letter by Bayer and is a suspected variable with a very small amplitude. Zeta Cassiopeiae is a suspected slowly pulsating B-type star. Eta Cassiopeiae is a spectroscopic binary star with a period of 480 years, and a suspected RS Canum Venaticorum variable. The primary is a yellow-hued star of magnitude 3.5 and the secondary is a red-hued star of magnitude 7.5. The system is 19 light-years from Earth. Kappa Cassiopeiae is a blue supergiant of spectral type BC0.7Ia that is some 302,000 times as luminous as the Sun and has 33 times its diameter. It is a runaway star, moving at around 2.5 million mph relative to its neighbors (1,100 kilometers per second). Its magnetic field and wind of particles creates a visible bow shock 4 light-years ahead of it, colliding with the diffuse, and usually invisible, interstellar gas and dust. The dimensions of the bow shock are vast: around 12 light-years long and 1.8 light-years wide. Theta Cassiopeiae, named Marfak, is a suspected variable star whose brightness changes by less than a tenth of a magnitude. Iota Cassiopeiae is a triple star 142 light-years from Earth. The primary is a white-hued star of magnitude 4.5 and an α2 Canum Venaticorum variable, the secondary is a yellow-hued star of magnitude 6.9, and the tertiary is a star of magnitude 8.4. The primary and secondary are close together but the primary and tertiary are widely separated. Omicron Cassiopeiae is a triple star and the primary is another γ Cassiopeiae variable.
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The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process. It is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometers, i.e. 109 times that of Earth, and its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth, accounting for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. About three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen (~73%); the rest is mostly helium (~25%), with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.
The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star (G2V) based on its spectral class. As such, it is informally referred to as a yellow dwarf. It formed approximately 4.6 billion[a] years ago from the gravitational collapse of matter within a region of a large molecular cloud. Most of this matter gathered in the center, whereas the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that became the Solar System. The central mass became so hot and dense that it eventually initiated nuclear fusion in its core. It is thought that almost all stars form by this process.
The Sun is roughly middle-aged; it has not changed dramatically for more than four billion[a] years, and will remain fairly stable for more than another five billion years. After hydrogen fusion in its core has diminished to the point at which it is no longer in hydrostatic equilibrium, the core of the Sun will experience a marked increase in density and temperature while its outer layers expand to eventually become a red giant. It is calculated that the Sun will become sufficiently large to engulf the current orbits of Mercury and Venus, and render Earth uninhabitable.
The enormous effect of the Sun on Earth has been recognized since prehistoric times, and the Sun has been regarded by some cultures as a deity. The synodic rotation of Earth and its orbit around the Sun are the basis of solar calendars, one of which is the predominant calendar in use today.
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