The Crow, Cup and Water Snake in June skies

Chart showing constellations labeled Corvus, Hydra, and Crater.
The Crow, Cup and Water Snake appear on June evenings.

At nightfall tonight, or any June evening, look in a general southward direction for Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, Spica appears overhead or high in the north. Spica is your jumping off point to three faint constellations: Corvus the Crow, Crater the Cup and Hydra the Water Snake.

Use the Big Dipper to find Spica

Check out the two charts below. If you’re familiar with the Big Dipper, use it to star-hop to Spica, as shown in the first chart.

Then you can use Spica to find the constellation Corvus. And alternatively, use Corvus to confirm that you’ve found Spica, as shown in the second chart.

Chart showing Big Dipper with long magenta arrows from its handle to Arcturus and Spica.
Use the Big Dipper to locate the stars Arcturus and Spica for months to come.
Sky chart with arrow going from two stars of Corvus to Spica.
Here’s another way to verify that you’re looking at Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

Okay … got Spica? Now, as nightfall deepens into later evening, watch for a number of fainter stars to become visible. That’s when the Crow, Cup and Water Snake will come into view.

Crow, Cup and Water Snake in skylore

In Greek mythology, Apollo sent the crow to fetch a cup of water. But the crow, Corvus, got distracted eating figs. It was only after much delay that he finally remembered his mission. The crow knew Apollo would be angry, so he 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 have any bright stars, but Hydra holds the distinction of being the longest constellation in the heavens.

Sky chart of long, thin constellation Hydra showing Crow, Cup and Water Snake.
Sky chart of the constellation Hydra, including Corvus and the Crater. Image via International Astronomical Union.

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

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June 6, 2024

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Deborah Byrd

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