Corvus (constellation)

Corvus (constellation)

Abbreviation Crv
Genitive Corvi
Pronunciation ,
Symbolism the Crow/Raven
Right ascension 12
Declination −20
Family Hercules
Quadrant SQ3
Area 184 sq. deg. (70th)
Main stars 4
Stars with planets 1
Stars brighter than 3.00m 3
Stars within 10.00 pc (32.62 ly) 1
Brightest star γ Crv (Gienah) (2.59m)
Nearest star Ross 695
(28.99 ly, 8.89 pc)
Messier objects 0
Meteor showers Corvids (June 26)
Visible at latitudes between +60° and −90°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of May.

Corvus is a small constellation in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere. Its name comes from the Latin word "raven" or "crow". It includes only 11 stars with brighter than 4.02 magnitudes. One of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy, it remains one of the 88 modern constellations. The four brightest stars, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, and Beta Corvi from a distinctive quadrilateral in the night sky.


  • History and mythology 1
  • Equivalents 2
  • Characteristics 3
  • Notable features 4
    • Stars 4.1
  • Notable deep-sky objects 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

History and mythology

Corvus, Crater, and other constellations seen around Hydra in Urania's Mirror (1825).

The Greek figure of Corvus is modeled on the Babylonian Raven (MUL.UGA.MUSHEN), which was similarly placed sitting on the tail of the Serpent (Greek Hydra). The Babylonian constellation was sacred to Adad, the god of rain and storm; in the second Millennium it would have risen just before the start of the autumnal rainy season.[1]

One myth associated with Corvus is that of Apollo and Coronis. Coronis had been unfaithful to her lover, who learned this information from a pure white crow. Apollo then turned its feathers black in a fit of rage.[2]

Another legend associated with Corvus is that a crow stopped on his way to fetch water for Apollo, in order to eat figs. Instead of telling the truth to Apollo, he lied and said that a snake, Hydra, kept him from the water, while holding a snake in his talons as proof. Apollo saw this to be a lie, however, and flung the crow (Corvus), cup (Crater), and the snake (Hydra) into the sky. He further punished the wayward bird by making sure that it would forever be thirsty, both in real life and in the heavens, where the Cup is barely out of reach.[2]


In Chinese astronomy, the stars of Corvus are located within the Vermillion Bird of the South (南方朱雀, Nán Fāng Zhū Què).[3]

In Indian astronomy, the first five stars of Corvus correspond to the Hastā, the 11th nakshatra or lunar mansion.[4]

Corvus was recognized as a constellation by several Polynesian cultures. In the Marquesas Islands, it was called Mee; in Pukapuka, it was called Te Manu, and in the Society Islands, it was called Metua-ai-papa.[5]


Covering 183 square degrees and hence 0.446% of the sky, Corvus ranks 70th of the 88 constellations in area.[6] It is bordered by Virgo to the north and east, Hydra to the south, and Crater to the west. The three-letter abbreviation for the constellation, as adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1922, is 'Crv'.[7] The official constellation boundaries, as set by Eugène Delporte in 1930, are defined by a polygon of six segments (illustrated in infobox). In the equatorial coordinate system, the right ascension coordinates of these borders lie between 11h 56m 22s and 12h 56m 40s, while the declination coordinates are between -11.68° and -25.20°.[8] Its position in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere means that the whole constellation is visible to observers south of 65°N.[6][1]

Notable features

The constellation Corvus as it can be seen by the naked eye.


Four principal stars, δ, γ, ε, and β Crv, form an asterism known as "the "Spica's Spanker"[9] or "the Sail".[10][11] γ and δ serve as pointers toward Spica.

The four brightest stars in Corvus are mostly unremarkable. Alpha Corvi, also called Alchiba, is a white-hued star of magnitude 4.0, 40 light-years from Earth. Beta Corvi is a yellow-hued giant star of magnitude 2.7, 140 light-years from Earth. Gamma Corvi, also called Gienah, is the brightest star in Corvus at magnitude 2.6. 165 light-years from Earth, it is a blue-white hued giant star. Its traditional name means "wing". Delta Corvi, traditionally called Algorab, is a double star divisible in small amateur telescopes. The primary is a blue-white hued star of magnitude 2.9, 88 light-years from Earth. The secondary is a purple-tinged star of magnitude 9. Its common name means "the raven".[2]

Struve 1669 is a binary star that is divisible by small amateur telescopes, 280 light-years from Earth. The pair, both white stars, is visible to the naked eye at magnitude 5.2; the primary is of magnitude 5.9 and the secondary is of magnitude 6.0.[2]

31 Crateris (which was originally placed within in Crater) is a 5.2 magnitude star which was once mistaken for a moon of Mercury.

TT Corvi is a Semiregular variable red giant of spectral type M3III and apparent magnitude 6.48 around 923 light years distant.[12]

Notable deep-sky objects

Corvus contains no Messier objects.

The Antennae peculiar galaxy, NGC 4038 and 4039, consists of two interacting galaxies that appear to have a heart shape as seen from Earth. The name originates from the huge tidal tails that come off the ends of the two galaxies, formed because of the spiral galaxies' original rotation. Both original galaxies were spiral galaxies and are now experiencing extensive star formation due to the interaction of gas clouds. The galaxies are 45 million light-years from Earth and each has multiple ultraluminous X-ray sources, the source of which is unknown. Astronomers theorize that they may be a rare type of x-ray emitting binary stars or intermediate-mass black holes.[13] The Antennae galaxies appear in a telescope at the 10th magnitude.[2]

The center of Corvus is home to a planetary nebula NGC 4361. The nebula itself resembles a small elliptical galaxy, but the magnitude 13 star at its centre gives away its true nature.

See also

Corvus (Chinese astronomy)


  1. ^ While parts of the constellation technically rise above the horizon to observers between the 65°N and 78°N, stars within a few degrees of the horizon are to all intents and purposes unobservable.[6]


  1. ^ Babylonian Star-lore by Gavin White, Solaria Pubs, 2008, page 166ff
  2. ^ a b c d e Ridpath & Tirion 2001, pp. 128-130.
  3. ^ (Chinese) AEEA (Activities of Exhibition and Education in Astronomy) 天文教育資訊網 2006 年 7 月 22 日
  4. ^ Allen, R. H., (1963): Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, New York, Dover Publications, p. 182.
  5. ^ Makemson 1941, p. 282.
  6. ^ a b c  
  7. ^  
  8. ^ "Corvus, Constellation Boundary". The Constellations (International Astronomical Union). Retrieved 12 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Nickel, J., (1999): Lift Up Your Eyes on High: Understanding the Stars, Christian Liberty Press, p. 53.
  10. ^ Bakich, M. E., (1995): The Cambridge Guide to the Constellations, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 21,22.
  11. ^ Mullaney, J., (2007): The Herschel objects and how to observe them , Springer, p. 39.
  12. ^ Tabur & Bedding 2009.
  13. ^ Wilkins, Jamie; Dunn, Robert (2006). 300 Astronomical Objects: A Visual Reference to the Universe. Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books.  


  • Makemson, Maud Worcester (1941). The Morning Star Rises: an account of Polynesian astronomy. Yale University Press. 
  • Ridpath, Ian; Tirion, Wil (2001), Stars and Planets Guide, Princeton University Press,  
  • Tabur, V.; Bedding, T. R. (2009). "Long-term photometry and periods for 261 nearby pulsating M giants".  
  • Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion (2007). Stars and Planets Guide, Collins, London. ISBN 978-0-00-725120-9. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 978-0-691-13556-4.
  • Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names, Their Lore and Legend, New York, Dover.
  • Thomas Wm. Hamilton, Useful Star Names, Viewlex, Holbrook, New York, 1968.

External links

  • Hawaiian Astronomical Society
  • Chandra X-ray Observatory
  • Constellations of Words
  • The Deep Photographic Guide to the Constellations: Corvus
  • Star Tales – Corvus and Crater
  • Corvus Constellation at Constellation Guide