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Constellations: Corvus -- A Slow Crow


Before this incident, crows use to have beautiful silver plumage (or some say it was snowy white) and they were able to speak in human tongue. They were the sacred birds of Apollo (the god of light, music, poetry, healing, prophecy, eloquence, truth and manly beauty). When Apollo saw an extremely beautiful maiden named Coronis, he fell deeply in love with her. About a year later, they became the proud parents of Esclepius (the god of medicine and healing), but soon Coronis lost interest in her divine lover Apollo.

She was attracted to a mere mortal, and foolish indeed to hope that Apollo would not learn of her unfaithfulness. What she didn't know was that one of Apollo's crows was spying on her. The bird immediately flew to Apollo and related the bad news. Learning of Coronis' infidelity made his blood boil. Apollo in a fit of furious anger, and with the complete injustice the gods usually showed when they were angry, punished the faithful crow by turning his feathers black and took away his ability to speak for bringing in the bad news (all of the other crows met the same fate). Of course Coronis was killed. Some say that the god did it himself, others that he got his twin sister Artemis to shoot an unerring arrow at her.

Another story tells that Apollo sent a crow to fetch water in the god's cup. The crow got back very late, because he ate some luscious figs before returning. He brought back a water snake along with the water-filled cup and told Apollo that the serpent had caused the delay. The god, however, could not be deceived by the lie. The angry god placed the crow, the cup (Crater) and the water snake (Hydra) among the stars, where the snake guards the water from the everlastingly thirsty crow.

Finally, this is not exactly mythological, unless you count the Bible as mythology, but Corvus is also associated with a raven in the Noah's Ark story. After the famous flood, Noah first released a raven to find dry land, but the bird never returned. Seven days later, this time Noah released a dove for the same task. The dove soon brought back a freshly plucked olive leaf in her beak. By the way, this dove is associated with the constellation of Columba, the Dove.


Each map can be clicked on to produce a 909x1199 version of it. They sport red labels, which look good on screen, but which disappear when used with red flashlights. Each map, therefore has a second link to a map better suited for printing in a graphics program, and using in the field. While they are quite large, they are all about 50k, and so are easy to view at today's modem speeds. The first map is a wide area view of the constellation, suitable for naked eye browsing. The next views are binocular width, showing stars to mag. 10, deepsky objects to mag. 12.9, and labeling deepsky objects to magnitude 12.

Interactive, wide area map of Corvus

Map thumbnail

Click the map for a 909x1199 version of the above. Click here for a map better suited for use in the field.

Narrower Angle View

Image thumbnail

This a more detailed view of the constellation. The map displays stars to magnitude 10, and deepsky objects to magnitude 12. Click here for a map better suited for use in the field.


Image thumbnail 25k JPEG NGC4361 (Best 32) is a mag. 10 planetary nebula 1.8' in diameter, described as bright, round, and slowly brightening toward the middle. You find it in the top third of Corvus' lozenge shaped figure.
Map Printable Map

Image thumbnail 60k JPEG Caldwell 60-61 are a pair of interacting galaxies called the Antenae, or the Ring Tailed Galaxies. They are located near the western border of the constellation, and in the top, left of the photograph. Faint, long streamers of gas and stars give the galaxies their name. Dreyer describes 4038 as fairly bright (mag. 10.9), quite large (2.6'x1.8'), round, with only a slow brightening toward the middle. 4039 (immediately south, or below in the photograph) is fairly faint and fairly large. The streamers show up best in photographs. NGC4027 (mag, 11.7) is in the bottom, right of the photograph, 42' away. It shows similar distortions and the Antenae, but no streamers. From the Digital Sky Survey.
Map Printable Map 255k JPEG


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