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The Cosmic Mystery Tour$
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Nicholas Mee

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198831860

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198831860.001.0001

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The Gorgon’s Head!

The Gorgon’s Head!

(p.161) The Gorgon’s Head!
The Cosmic Mystery Tour

Nicholas Mee

Oxford University Press

The astronomer John Goodricke was first to realize the star Algol in the constellation Perseus regularly fades for several hours because it is periodically eclipsed by a fainter companion star. In antiquity the strange behaviour of Algol led to its mythological identification with the head of the gorgon Medusa, and this is the source of its name. Goodicke’s explanation of the variability of Algol was published in 1783. He also discovered other eclipsing binaries as well as the first Cepheid variable. Tragically, Goodricke died at the age of just 21.

Keywords:   Algol, eclipsing binary, John Goodricke, Perseus, Medusa, Cepheid variable

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