Tonight, or any June evening, look in the sky around nightfall. The first “stars” you’ll likely notice are really the planets Jupiter and Mars. These brilliant beauties light up the sky as soon as the sun goes down. Then – assuming you’re in the Northern Hemisphere – look nearly due south, roughly midway between these two planets, for sparkling blue-white Spica, in Virgo. This post tells you how to find Spica. 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. The crow, Corvus, got distracted eating figs. It was only after much delay that he 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 the Crow, Cup and Snake 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.