University Lowbrow Astronomers

Constellation of the Month: Hydra, Corvus & Crater; The Water Serpent, The Crow & The Cup.

by Mark S Deprest
Printed in Reflections: May, 2001.

The Constellations of Hydra, Corvus and Crater

These three constellations are linked in mythology and are sometimes portrayed as link in the sky.  So, we will look at them together.  The story of these three is a delightful one that involves Apollo and his wrath and sense of humor.  At one time Corvus, the Crow had beautiful silver-white plumage and a lovely singing voice, but he lost both of these as a result of not carrying out Apollo’s orders.  It seems that Apollo sent Corvus to fetch a cup (Crater) of water.  Corvus set out immediately to complete this task, but along his way he noticed a fig tree, laden with juicy figs.  However, these figs were not quite ripe.  Corvus could not pass these lovely, juicy figs by and leave them for someone else to devour, so he decided to wait until they ripened.  When the figs had finally ripened, he enjoyed his tasty but final meal.  When Corvus had eaten all of the figs he suddenly remembered his task of fetching water for Apollo.  Corvus quickly filled the Cup (Crater) and raced back to Apollo, offering a rather lame excuse that the Water Serpent (Hydra) had hindered his efforts to scoop up the water.  Apollo was young but not that gullible, so Apollo punished Corvus.  For his selfishness, Apollo changed the beautiful silver-white plumage of Corvus to dirty black.  For lying to Apollo, Corvus’ lovely song was changed into a raucous screeching caw.  The worst punishment by far was that Apollo placed Corvus and the Cup (Crater) in the sky on the back of the Water-Serpent (Hydra).  Hydra was instructed to make sure that Corvus never came within reach of the Cup (Crater) to quench his thirst.  This Hydra is not the same multi-headed beast that Hercules fought in his second labor, as this Hydra is always pictured with only one head.

Transit at Midnight of Alpha Hydra:  February 15th
Transit at Midnight of Alpha Crater:  March 13th
Transit at Midnight of Alpha Corvus:  March 30th

The constellations are situated rather low in the sky, (from our point of view in the northern hemisphere) as only the head of Hydra rises north 0 degrees Declination.  The constellations Crater and Corvus are completed south of -6 degrees 30 minutes Declination and -11 degrees 30 minutes respectively.  Hydra, the largest constellation, stretches across the sky from 8 hours 11.5 minutes at its western border to 15 hours 2.5 minutes at its eastern edge, and from north 6 degrees 39 minutes declination to south 35 degrees 39.5 minutes declination.  Crater and Corvus are rather small in comparison, occupying about 1 hour of R. A. each and only 20 degrees and 15 degrees of Dec. respectively.  The main stars of these three constellations are not very bright, with the exception of Alpha Hydrae; Alphard, a 1.9 magnitude giant star about 25 times the size of our sun and about 370 times the luminosity.  The rest of the main stars are 3rd, 4th, and 5th magnitude and because these constellations ride the southern horizon can be difficult to see if you live in the northern hemisphere.

Things to Check Out in Hydra, Crater and Corvus:

Multiple Star Systems

Beta Hydrae; HJ4478

Epsilon Hydrae; STF1273; ADS 6993

N Hydrae; H96, HD100286; ADS 8202

STF1474AB; STF1474AC

Gamma Crateris; HJ 840

Iota Crateris; KUI 58

Delta Corvi; Algorab; SHJ145; ADS 8572

STF1669 Corvi; VV Corvi; ADS 8627

Burnham 28 Corvi; HD108799; ADS 8573

Zeta Corvi; BU 1245

Deep Sky Objects

M 48; NGC 2548; OCL 584 Open cluster


M 68; NGC 4590; GCL 20; ESO 506-SC30; Globular cluster


M 83; NGC 5236; MCG -5-32-50; Spiral Galaxy


NGC 5694; Caldwell 66; Globular Cluster

NGC 4361; PK67:  294+43; Planetary Nebula

NGC 4038 & NGC 4039; Caldwell 60 & Caldwell 61; Ringtail Galaxy

NGC 4038, NGC 4039

NGC 3242; Caldwell 59; PK67:  261+32 1; Ghost of Jupiter; Planetary Nebula

NGC 3242


All Images on this page were downloaded from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.


Copyright Info

Copyright © 2015, the University Lowbrow Astronomers. (The University Lowbrow Astronomers are an amateur astronomy club based in Ann Arbor, Michigan).
This page originally appeared in Reflections of the University Lowbrow Astronomers (the club newsletter).
University Lowbrow Astronomers Privacy Policy
This page revised Tuesday, April 10, 2018 7:08 PM.
This web server is provided by the University of Michigan; the University of Michigan does not permit profit making activity on this web server.
Do you have comments about this page or want more information about the club? Contact Us.