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Ophiuchus (serpent bearer)

Location: Equatorial, visible in both Hemispheres
Right Ascension: 17h
Declination: 0º
Source: Greek Mythology
Ophiuchus Constellation

The story behind the name: The constellation Ophiuchus seems to be a figure of a man entwined with two snakes, one in each hand. The constellation is an ancient one, but most often associated with Asclepius, the son of Apollo and Coronis. Asclepius was regarded as the founder of medicine, having learned the healing arts from both his father Apollo and his tutor, the wise Centaur Chiron.

In one series of myths, Asclepius is killed by Zeus. He is said to have tried to save the life of Orion after the famous hunter was accidentally killed by Athena's arrow. Zeus struck him down before he could finish.

Another myth says that Asclepius became so good at healing that he could actually raise people from the dead. A variant on this myth says that Athena gave him one or two vials of Medusa's blood. One could be used to destroy, the other to raise the dead. Another version said that she only gave him the life-saving blood.

John Flamsteed's Ophiuchus from Atlas Coelestis (1753)

Hades was angered by Asclepius's actions, arguing that souls were being stolen from him.

Whether it was quantity, or a particular healing that so angered Hades - in addition to Orion, Asclepius was said to have resurrected Tyndareus, Glaucus, and Hippolytus - legend says that Zeus was persuaded to kill Asclepius. He later relented and restored Asclepius to life, and put his image in the stars holding a snake. Snakes were thought to be connected to healing and rebirth because they sloughed their skins every year. These beliefs may have been influenced by Babylonian legends.

Introduction to Constellations | Constellation Sources | Constellations Index

Objects observed by Chandra in Ophiuchus: