Find the Crow, Cup and Water Snake

Tonight, or any June evening, look south and west (below and to the right) of the star Spica for the constellations of Corvus the Crow, Crater the Cup, and Hydra the Water Snake.

You’ll be looking in the south to southwest sky around nightfall. In 2018, the brilliant “star” to the east (left) of the star Spica is really the planet Jupiter, which lights up the sky almost as soon as the sun goes down. Jupiter is near Zubenelgenubi, the alpha star in the constellation Libra the Scales. And Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, is your guide to the Crow, Cup and Water Snake.

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 the Water Snake will come into view.

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.

Hydra the Water Snake with the orange star Alphard at its heart. Illustration via Deanspace.

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.

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Deborah Byrd