Corvus is a small, faint, and very old constellation.
Corvus, the Crow, was called the Raven by
ancient Greeks. The story goes that Apollo sent the raven, or crow, to
collect water in the nearby cup ("Crater" = goblet). But the bird wasted
its time eating figs. Then, as an excuse for losing time, it gathered
up the Water Snake (Hydra) in its claws and flew back, telling Apollo
that this creature was the reason for its delay.
Apollo would have none of it, and threw all three: the crow, the goblet,
and the water snake, into the heavens. For penance, the crow was made to
suffer eternal thirst (and this makes the bird caw raucously instead of
sing like normal birds).
Corvus has only a few Bayer stars. As for
possible objects of interest, there are two double stars, a variable,
and a curious deep sky object.
Double stars in Corvus:
Zeta Corvi is an optical binary: 5.0, 13.0; PA 66º, separation
Delta Corvi is a fixed binary: 3.0, 9.2; PA 214º, separation
The wide separation makes it a fine object for small telescopes;
its colour contrast adds to the attraction: a white primary and purplish
(or lilac) companion.
Struve 1669 is a pleasant double of equal stars: 6.0, 6.0; PA 309º, separation 5.4".
The binary is five degrees north-northeast of delta Corvi.
Incidentally, 1.5 degrees north of this binary is M104 (Sombrero Galaxy)
Variable stars in Corvus:
R Corvi is a long-period variable with a range from 6.7 to 14.4
every 317.03 days. In 2000 the maximum should occur in the latter half
Deep Sky Objects in Corvus:
There are no Messier objects in Corvus, but there is one deep sky object
of some interest: the curiously shaped Ringtale Galaxy.
NGC 4038 (the Ringtale Galaxy) is a rare type of galaxy
classified as "pecular". It resembles a foetus more than anything else.
Speculation has suggested it may show two galaxies in collision, or one
galaxy that has broken up, split in two. However, long-exposure photography
to required to bring out any detail. Burnham (pp 720-721) reproduces a
number of photographs.
The galaxy is located 3.7 degrees west-southwest of gamma Corvi.
It's about 90 million light years away.
For a closer appreciation of Corvus, visit the Binocular Section.