Crater is a very ancient constellation: this region of the sky was known as 'The Cup' at least
as long ago as the second century, and the name is almost certainly older.
According to myth, the god Apollo sent a crow (represented by Corvus, the neighbouring
constellation) to fetch the Water of Life in a Cup. Tempted by figs, the crow forgot its
errand and dropped the cup, returning with a water-snake (Hydra) in its claws. The infuriated
deity banished all three, crow, cup and water-snake, to the sky.
The stars of Crater are unremarkable except in one respect; their unusual uniformity. Most
lie between 100 and 200 light years from the Sun, are between fourth and fifth magnitude, and
belong to the K-type orange spectral classification.
There is, almost certainly, no astronomical reason why this should be - the stars are separated from one another by
dozens of parsecs, and their similarity to one another appears to be a remarkable coincidence.
The Alpha star is known as Alkes, but at a faint magnitude of just over four, this is not
easily distinguished as the brightest of the group. In fact, though, it is an orange
giant, and would be considerably more noticeable if it were closer than its actual distance
of 174 light years.