Ophiuchus can be seen in the sky from June through October. Look for the teapot shape!
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe original image
The constellation Ophiuchus represents the Serpent Bearer. This large constellation can be seen in the night sky from June through October. Although most of the stars are dim, Ophiuchus' teapot shape makes it easy to recognize.
The constellation is actually a combination of three different figures. Ophiuchus is holding Serpens Caput in his left hand, and Serpens Cauda in his right. He is located south of Hercules and north of Scorpius.
In Greek myth, Ophiuchus represents the god of medicine, Asclepius. Asclepius was the son of Apollo and was taught by Chiron, the Centaur. One day he killed a snake, but surprisingly another snake came and revived his friend with herbs. From this Asclepius learned the healing power of plants.
The son of Apollo later learned how to bring people back from the dead, which worried Hades. The god of the underworld asked his brother Zeus to kill the medicine god. Zeus did strike him dead, but then put the figure of Asclepius in the sky to honor him.
There aren't many bright stars in this constellation, but there is a rather unique one. RS Ophiuchi is a type of star called a recurrent nova. These strange objects stay dim for long periods of time, and then suddenly brighten. RS is normally an 11th magnitude star, but in 1958 it reached a magnitude of 5.0 for a few days. The brightest star is called Ras Alhague, and is the head of the serpent bearer.
From our view, Ophiuchus seems to be traveling through the Milky Way. This means it should be part of the Zodiac. This also means that it is full of celestial objects. The open cluster IC 4665 is right about Ophiuchus' right shoulder. NGC 6633 is near the tail of Serpens Cauda, and is about 20 degrees across. there are several other clusters, and one nebula. IC 4603-4604 is a diffuse nebula near the star Antares, the constellation Scorpius.
You might also be interested in:
How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable....more
Hercules, the great Greek warrior, can be seen kneeling in the sky for northern latitudes throughout the Spring months. Hercules first becomes visible in the east in April, and works his way high across...more
More than any other constellation, Scorpius resembles its given name. It is located low in the south for northern latitudes, but passes high in the sky for viewers in the southern hemisphere. The bright...more
Following the defeat of the Titans by the Jovian gods, Hades obtained the kingdom of the underworld. One day, while he was riding through the field of battle, the goddess Aphrodite had her companion Eros...more
In Greek mythology, Zeus (Jupiter in Roman mythology) was the king of heaven and Earth and of all the Olympian gods. He was also known as the god of justice. He was named king of the gods in the special...more
What's in a Name: Arabic for "head of the serpent collector" Claim to Fame: Brightest star, and the head of the serpent, in the constellation Ophiuchus. Type of Star: White Giant How Far Away: 62 light...more
What's in a Name: Greek for "Rival of Mars" (Ares is Greek for Mars). Sometimes Antares is mistaken for Mars when they are close together because both are red. Claim to Fame: Brightest star in the constellation...more
Andromeda is a "V" shaped constellation best viewed in Autumn if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. It was one of the earliest constellations to be recognized. Andromeda lies near the celestial north...more