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Ophiuchus is a little creepy. The constellation represents a man holding a snake – something most people definitely would not want to experience. Yet in one version of his story, the snake helped make Ophiuchus a great healer – so great that the gods of Olympus turned against him.
In Greece, Ophiuchus was known as Asclepius. One day, a friend was bitten by a snake and died. Asclepius then killed the snake. But another snake dropped a mouthful of herbs on the dead one, which was resurrected. Asclepius then used those same herbs on his friend. He, too, returned to life.
Armed with those magical herbs, Asclepius began healing people all over the place. That was creating a population explosion. So Zeus, the king of the gods, killed the healer with a lightning bolt. Zeus then placed both man and snake in the night sky.
Today, Asclepius is known as the father of medicine. And one of the symbols of medicine is a snake wrapped around the staff of Asclepius.
Ophiuchus is a big constellation. It’s low in the sky at nightfall, and stretches all the way from due east to due southeast. Its main pattern of stars resembles the outline of a coffee urn. The urn is on its side in early evening, but stands upright later in the night, as Ophiuchus climbs the southern sky. The head of the snake rises above Ophiuchus, with its tail below.
Script by Damond Benningfield