Through the course of the year our skies are adorned by around 70 constellations. There are great magnificent constellations like Orion the Hunter thatís still hanging in the western evening sky or Ursa Major the Big Bear shining brightly upside down in the high northeast. And then there are not so majestic ones like Corvus the crow. Actually itís really a poor excuse for constellation but while it doesnít have a wow factor itís still one of my favorite constellations because even though itís small itís distinct and pretty easy to find.
Just after evening twilight these spring evenings look for a lopsided trapezoid or diamond of moderately bright stars hanging a little above the southeastern horizon. In the minds many early cultures that crooked diamond is suppose to be a crow. If you can see it as a crow more power to you. Imagination needs to be stretched to the fullest!
Thereís also nothing really that astronomically significant about Corvus. Gienah, on the upper right corner is the brightest star in the stellar crow. In fact itís an Arabic name which translates to English as ďthe right wing of the crowĒ. It appears to the naked eye as a single star but in fact itís believed by most astronomers to be a binary star system, two stars revolving closely around each other about 165 light years away. Just one light year equals nearly six trillion miles! The light that see from Gienah binary left those stars in 1848AD, long before American Civil War got going.
If you have a medium to larger telescope you might get a look at the Antennae Galaxy, about 45 million light years away thatís actually a merger of two clashing galaxies that have taken on heart shape. It called the Antennae because of two tidal tails that emerge from ends of the two galaxies. Itís located just to the right of the Corvus trapezoid.
Through the ages crows have really gotten a bad rap but in truth theyíre one of the smartest birds around. This certainly is reflected in a lot of the mythology related to the constellation Corvus. In Norse mythology one yarn is centered around the god Odin who had at his command a pair of crows named Hugin and Munin. They served as Odinís eyes and ears as flew around the world gathering the latest news. CNN was still a few years off. At the end of every day the dynamic crow duo sat on Odinís shoulders and put on private newscast to their master.
In and Roman mythology, crows were actually the more respected birds on Earth. Back then they were highly intelligent, sang a beautiful song and had bright white feathers with gold trim. They served the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus with great distinction but things went terribly wrong for Corvus and all of crow-kind.
One myth has Corvus the Crow clearly being in the crossfire of a broken love affair. Apollo, the mighty god was quite a lover and had quite a stable of girlfriends. One of them was Coronis who was pregnant with supposedly Apolloís child but the god of the sun wasnít absolutely sure he was the daddy. So he had his faithful crow Corvus spy on Coronis to see just how faithful she was.
Sure enough Corvus discovered that Coronis was actually also in love with a mortal man, Ischys. Corvus was fearful of informing Apollo of his discovery because he was well aware of his masterís horrible temper. So Corvus sat of his information for a while but finally gatherd the courage to bring Apollo the bad news. Just as Corvus feared Apollo really lost it when the truth was revealed to him. Not only was he furious with Coronis but flew off the handle accusing Corvus of not doing all he could to stop the affair even though that wasnít his mission. Never the less Apollo flung a curse on not only Corvus but all crows, scorching their white feathers to the jet black color we see to this day. He also collectively turned all the crowís beautiful singing voices into the caw caw we hear today. Talk about burning the messenger!
When you get a look at the constellation Corvus, as unimpressive as it is, or see any crow flying around trying scratch a living, think of poor Corvus and all the other crows that got a raw deal from Apollo. Shame of you sun god!
DIAGRAM OF CORVIS THE CROW. Click