Crater

The Cup

Constellation of the southern sky

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Map of Crater

Derivation

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.

Stars

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.

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