Ophiuchus and Serpent on June evenings

Hopefully, you’ll have a dark, country sky to see the constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer. Its head is marked by the star Rasalhague.

Practiced sky watchers look for Ophiuchus to the north of the more prominent constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. As seen from mid-northern latitudes, Scorpius won’t completely rise into the sky until rather late evening. With an unobstructed view to the southeast, you should be able to catch Antares, the Scorpion’s bright ruddy star, by nightfall or early evening.

Saturn lights up the constellation Ophiuchus all year long.. The green line depicts the ecliptic - Earth's orbital planet projected onto the constellations of the Zodiac.
Saturn lights up the constellation Ophiuchus all year long in 2016. The green line depicts the ecliptic – Earth’s orbital planet projected onto the constellations of the Zodiac.

Ophiuchus is joined in legend and in the sky to the constellation of the Serpent, called Serpens. This is one constellation that looks to me like what it’s supposed to: a big guy holding a snake.

The constellation is identified with Aesculapius, said to have been the first doctor, who learned his trade from a snake. It’s this same tradition that causes a staff with a serpent around it to appear in doctors’ offices and hospitals today. It’s said that Aesculapius was such a powerful healer that he succeeded in raising the dead. This act angered Pluto, god of the underworld. To make peace among the gods, Zeus transported Aesculapius (Ophiuchus) to the night sky.

The sun lies within the borders of the constellation Ophiuchus for a few weeks each year, from about November 30 to December 18.

Birthday late November to middle December? Here’s your constellation

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View larger. | Posted by our friend on Facebook, Annie Lewis, last night (June 1, 2013):
Annie Lewis posted this photo of Ophiuchus to EarthSky Facebook in 2013. She wrote: “Here are Opiuchus and Serpens Cauda, which are directly opposite my front door. Madrid, Spain.”
Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer via Wikipedia.

Bottom line: Look for the faint constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer late at night on June evenings.

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June 25, 2016

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Deborah Byrd

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