Who says there’s no such thing as a drive-in movie anymore?
There are two movies out this summer dealing with the myth of Perseus, the hero of Greek mythology. One is a modern retelling of the story titled, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” while the other is a remake of a movie that used to run ad nauseum on cable TV called, “Clash of the Titans.” I’ll admit, I haven’t seen either.
But something happening this week made me think of old Perseus again and the story of his battles with gods and men and monsters and women, two of which are scary while the other two are really, really scary. I’ll let you figure out which ones. The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks this week starting tonight and ending Thursday night. They’re called the Perseids because the meteors appear to come from the constellation Perseus located tonight in the northeast. The best viewing times are from about midnight to dawn each night and this year’s showers are expected to be particularly good because there’s no moon and therefore no glare to compete with them.
But if you decide to brave the heat and mosquitoes to go outside and catch a glimpse, take a moment to think about what you’re seeing in the night sky. The constellation Perseus is shaped like a crooked triangle with two “arms” made of stars, one bent and one appearing to hold something up to the sky. That “something” is supposedly the head of Medusa, the gorgon whose gaze turned men – and monsters – to stone. Perseus was said to have slain the monster by using his shield as a mirror and chopping off her head.
But if you look beyond Perseus, you’ll see that that entire region of the sky is dedicated to his story. Just above Perseus are five stars that form a crooked “W” (insert your own George Bush joke here). These make up the constellation Cassiopeia, the queen of Ethiopia, who vainly boasted that her own daughter, Andromeda, was more beautiful than the daughters of Poseidon. As punishment, Poseidon sent a sea monster – known in the movie versions as the Kraken although the name is actually of Scandinavian origin – to kill Andromeda. But Perseus, wielding the head of Medusa, turns the Kraken into stone and saves Andromeda, making her his wife. If you look to the right of Perseus in the sky, you’ll see a constellation shaped somewhat like the symbol for pi. That’s Andromeda, which also happens to be home to the Andromeda galaxy, one of the most beautiful spiral galaxies, like our own Milky Way, in the sky although the ancients couldn’t have known that.
So if you want to see a good story told with big stars and spectacular special effects, step outside tonight or tomorrow and look up to the northeast and use your imagination, not the remote control, to remember the story of Perseus.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marty Russell/NEMS Daily Journal