Delta of Cassiopeia

In several chapters of Ulysses, Stephen thinks of a star, "delta in Cassiopeia," near which an intensely bright new star appeared in 1572, soon becoming visible even in daytime. In Proteus this spectacular astronomical development, known today to have been a supernova, sparks his interest in extraterrestrial life. In Scylla and Charybdis he presents it as an occult announcement of the birth of William Shakespeare. In Ithaca, his mention of the nova prompts the more astronomically informed Bloom to recall several other, less bright ones that were spotted in the second half of the 19th century. All three passages play with the idea that the celestial heavens are intimately connected with life on earth.

John Hunt 2021

2010 map by Torsten Bronger of the five stars that make up the constellation of Cassiopeia, with Delta (δ) at lower left. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Page from Tycho's On the New Star (1573), showing the delta star of Cassiopeia (E) and the "nova stella" (I). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Title page of Giordano Bruno's On the Infinite Universe and Worlds (Venice, 1584). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Cassiopeia seen in her "recumbent" pose. Source:

Paul Hardy, The Pillar of Fire, illustration in The Art Bible (London, 1896). Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Spectrum chart of the magnitudes of several bright celestial bodies, showing the limit (~7) of what can be seen by unaided human eyes. Source:

Artist's conception of the explosion initiated by the collision of two neutron stars. Source:

2014 photograph of one of the brightest supernovae observed so far in the 21st century, seen at peak brightness of magnitude 10.6 in galaxy M82, about 12 million light years away from earth. Source:

Raviryan84's 2019 animation (click to run) of the exponentially increasing proliferation of supernova sightings between 1885 and June 2019 (the horseshoe arc without dots is the plane of the Milky Way). Source: Wikimedia Commons.