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Crow, Cup and Water Snake sail the southern sky


Tonight for June 5, 2015

This June evening, look to the sky around nightfall. The first “stars” you will likely see are really the planets Venus and Jupiter. These brilliant beauties light up the west as soon as the sun goes down. Then look nearly due south for sparkling blue-white Spica, in Virgo. Okay … got Spica? Now, as nightfall deepens into later evening, watch for a number of fainter stars to become visible. Below and to the right of Spica are the constellations of Corvus the Crow, Crater the Cup, and Hydra the Water Snake.

In Greek mythology, Apollo sent the crow to fetch a cup of water. Corvus, however, got distracted eating figs and after much delay, finally remembered his mission. Rightly figuring that Apollo would be angry, the crow plucked a snake from the water and concocted a story about how it had attacked and delayed him. Apollo was not fooled and angrily flung all three into the sky, placing the crow and cup on the snake’s back. Then the god ordered Hydra to never let the crow drink from the cup. As a further punishment, he ordered that the crow could never sing again, only screech and caw.

None of these constellations has any bright stars, but Hydra holds the distinction of being the longest constellation in the heavens.

Bottom line: Use the bright star Spica to help you find the constellations of Corvus the Crow, Crater the Cup, and Hydra the Water Snake.

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