Allerlei - Classical Constellations: Centaurus to Corvus

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Centaurus, the Centaur, is one of two centaurs in the starry sky (the other is the constellation Sagittarius). This constellation represents the centaur named Chiron. As with all centaurs, Chiron was half human and half horse. He lived in a region of Greece called Thessaly. Chiron had two teachers - Apollo, who was the god of healing and the sun; and Artemis, Apollo's twin sister who was the goddess of hunting and the moon. When Chiron grew up he became a great teacher. He also charted the stars so people could use them to find their way when traveling.

Chiron was immortal, that is, he could live forever. But one day he was accidentally shot by a poisoned arrow. The poison could not kill him but it did make him suffer terribly. Chiron did not want to spend eternity in such awful pain so he asked Zeus, king of the gods, to let him die. After Chiron died Zeus honored the centaur by placing him in the stars.

The picture above looks a little funny because half of the Centaur was on one star chart and the other half was on another star chart. I had to use my computer to put the two parts together. That is not the reason why Centaurus has two tails - in this picture he is supposed to have a tail coming off of his belly! (but I don't really think it is supposed to be called a tail!).

Corona Australis

Corona Australis, the Southern Crown, is a circular group of stars in the southern sky.

Corona Borealis

Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, has a few different stories attached to it. One Greek myth says that a woman named Ariadne was feeling sad. A god, Dionysus, came along and tried to cheer her up. To prove that he was a god he took the crown off of his head and threw it up into the sky. You can still see the crown in the stars of Corona Borealis.


Cepheus, was king of a land called Ethiopia. Cassiopeia was his wife. When Cassiopeia boasted that her beauty was greater than that of the sea nymphs Poseidon sent a monster to ravage the land. In order to save the country Cepheus and Cassiopeia had to sacrifice their daughter Andromeda to the monster. Fortunately Andromeda was saved when the monster was killed by a hero named Perseus.


Cetus, the Sea Monster, is the monster that Poseidon sent to devour Andromeda. She ended up being rescued by Perseus.

The name Cetus means 'whale' but the constellation was not meant to be the sea mammal that we call a whale today. The constellation Cetus was definitely supposed to be a sea monster!


Corvus, the Raven, is often called a crow but it really is supposed to be a raven. The two birds sort of look the same but ravens are much bigger and they are in many more legends than crows.

According to one legend Raven was placed in the starry sky as a punishment. The sun god Apollo was thirsty and sent Raven with a cup to fetch some cool water from a spring. Near the spring was a fig tree and Raven stopped there to eat some fruit. It was so delicious that he lost track of time while he ate. When Raven was done he knew that he was going to be in trouble for being late with the water. Raven thought of an excuse - he grabbed a water snake from the spring and flew back to Apollo. "I am sorry for being so late with the water," said Raven. "I first had to fight this water snake!" lied Raven, holding up the dead snake. But Apollo was the sun god and knew everything that had happened. "You must be punished for your lie," he said. "You and the cup of water will be placed in the heavens. No matter how thirsty you become you will never be able to drink from the cup. For as you said in your lie, the water will be guarded by a snake." Raven became Corvus, the cup is the constellation Crater, and the serpent between them is the constellation Hydra.

North American Indians have very many legends about ravens. The following story is not about the constellation but it is one example of a raven myth. According to the Tanaina Indians, a long time ago there was no light on earth. It was so dark that people could scarcely leave their homes without getting lost. Delgaya (Raven) decided that he would try to find some light. Delgaya flew for a long long time until he came upon a village that was brilliantly lit by the sun. The people of the village kept the sun (and the moon) all to themselves. In the village Delgaya saw a woman drawing water from a well. She was the daughter of a very rich important man. Delgaya landed on a tree branch above the woman and dropped spruce needles into her bucket. The woman drank and swallowed the spruce needles along with the water. Before long the woman swelled up and had a baby boy. One day the woman and boy went to visit her father (the child's grandfather). The child asked his grandfather if he could play with the sun and the moon. Grandfather first sealed up the smokehole and all the cracks in the house. Then he let his grandson play with the sun and moon. As soon as the child held the glowing balls he turned into Delgaya and flew out a crack that the grandfather had not seen. Delgaya released the sun and moon into the sky and told them how they should move and which months to make hot or cold. The next day brought sunshine to the whole world.

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