Crows aren’t very popular birds. They’re loud and messy, and they’re generally considered sneaky pests.
According to Greek mythology, that wasn’t always the case. Originally, crows had silver-white plumage and beautiful voices. But a naughty crow angered one of the gods, who transformed all crows as part of the punishment.
The story is told in three constellations. Corvus, the crow; Crater, the cup; and Hydra, the water snake.
The tale says that one day the god Apollo gave the crow a cup and sent him to fetch some water. As he flew toward the nearest spring, though, the crow saw a fig tree and dropped in for a snack. But the figs were still green, so he had to wait several days for them to ripen.
By then, Apollo was mightily displeased, and the crow knew he would be. So the crow grabbed a water snake and flew back to Apollo, telling the god that the snake had blocked his way. But Apollo knew the crow himself was to blame. In anger, he gave crows black feathers and a raspy voice. He then flung the crow, cup, and snake into the sky, where they remain today.
Look for them in the southeast as night falls. Corvus is the easiest to find, because its four brightest stars form a pattern that looks like a compact sail. The cup is to the crow’s upper right - just out of reach of the thirsty bird. And the water snake slithers above them, stretching almost halfway across the sky.
More about Corvus tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2013
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.