The constellation Raven (Corvus-Crv)

The Raven


The name, the story, the myth


The constellation of the Raven is a small constellation near Virgo, already introduced by Ptolemy and therefore of ancient origins.


The raven would be the bird that Apollo, god of music and poetry, commissioned to take the water of life with a cup. The bird, at the beginning of the journey, was white.



The raven went, but on the way it lingered at a fig tree waiting for the fruit to ripen. On his return he tried to justify the delay by blaming a snake, but an angry Apollo noticed the lie and turned the crow into a black bird, condemning it to eternal thirst - in some versions the torment inflicted by Apollo foresaw that every year, for as long as the fruit of the fig tree ripened, the crow would not be able to drink from any spring, fountain or water mirror. He sent it then to heaven to guard, with the Hydra (which, in some traditions, would be a serpent, the snake in the myth), the Cup, which would be the constellation Crater.


Another legend tells of Apollo's falling in love with Chorion, the mother of the doctor Aesculapius. Apollo instructed the raven to report the behavior of his beloved, but although the bird's story was completely negative, Apollo rewarded him by cutting him a place in heaven.

The constellation is located between two other very big and well known constellations, Virgo and Hydra: it has quite bright stars (from the magnitude 2.5 of β Crv down), so much that it can be seen also in the city, but only when the smog gives some respite. As already said the brightest star is β Crv, while α Crv is just the fifth brightest, but anyway it's difficult to "see" a crow with the stars available.


But now let's see how this bird was represented in antiquity and modern times, starting from the Uranometria

the Raven according to the Uranometry

and then move on to the (mirror-like) representation of Hevelius

the Raven according to Hevelius

to finally reach Stellarium.

the Raven according to Stellarium

Stars not very near and large

In the constellation there are not particularly close stars, but a couple of them are below the threshold of 60 al, above which our Sun is no longer visible to the naked eye, if only one day we will be able to go in person near the star in question: we know that we can do this always and in any case thanks to Celestia.

The less distant one is α Crv, of 4th magnitude and spectral class F0, placed at 49 al da Sole: my Alchibisti friends have sent me the photo that portrays our yellow dwarf in a zone of sky rich of very known stars of Andromeda, Pegasus and Aries, with the addition of two near stars, Altair and Sirius, that we find a little bit everywhere.

The other star considered is η Crv, of magnitude 4.3 and spectral class F2, which is at 59 al: in this case I contacted my Donor friends, but the photo they sent me of the Sun is almost equal to the previous one, with the Sun obviously weaker. If you don't understand the etymology of the name of the friendly aliens, I suggest you go and see the name of the star...


comparison between the stars of the Raven and other notes

But let's move on to the big stars, or rather to the star: in the comparison diagram between the stars of Crow and other notes, I have inserted only one star, ε Crv, of spectral class K2 and 52 times big our Sun: as usual we are in front of a star clearly bigger than the usual Aldebaran (with equal star class), but at least this time we can see it in the sky since its magnitude is equal to 3. If it were closer than its 303 to the 303 it would shine a lot in the sky and we would make the comparisons with it, not with the brightest star of Taurus.


Very interesting deep sky objects

In the first of these photos, taken as always by the HST, we see the barred spiral galaxy NGC 4027

the galaxy NGC 4027

The second object that I propose to you is very famous. It is a rare case of two galaxies colliding, but don't think about epic clashes between stars and other science fiction movie cataclysms: we have already talked about it elsewhere, now just think about the immense space between one star and another and the very low probability that two stars could collide. Here we see the two galaxies NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 which have two tails of gas and material emitted as a result of their interaction: they resemble the antennas of an insect, so much so that the pair is known as Antennae Galaxies. This time clicking on the image we see not the same image in high definition, but another picture of the HST, which shows the detail of the two galaxies

the galaxies NGC 4038 and NGC 4039: the Antennae Galaxies

Finally, we can admire a planetary nebula, the NGC 4361.

the planetary nebula NGC 4361

The names of the stars

The six brightest stars of the Raven have received a denomination that for better or worse refers to the bird: just to disprove me immediately, look at the meaning of the first...

  • Alchiba (α Crv): the tent
  • Kraz (β Crv): perhaps it derives from the crow's cry
  • Gienah (γ Crv): the wing
  • Algorab (δ Crv): the raven
  • Minkar (ε Crv): the beak
  • Avis Satyra (η Crv): the bird of the Satyrs


The visibility

Given its location in the sky, the Raven is visible at our latitudes at a certain time of the year, at the time for our observations, 9 p.m. In particular, it appears low on the horizon between ESE and SE in the first days of March, then culminates in the South, at the meridian, at the end of May, at a height on the horizon of about 30° and then begins to set in late July, when it is low on the horizon, in the Southwest.



Audio Video The constellation Raven (Corvus-Crv)
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