Serpens is a large and winding constellation. It is one of the original 48 constellations identified by Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy in his Almagest. The only areas on Earth that cannot see a portion of Serpens are the northern and southern polar regions. It is composed of Serpens Caput and Serpens Cauda.
Eugène Joseph Delporte (1882 – 1955) was a Belgian astronomer. As part of an early 20th effort by the newly formed International Astronomical Union. Delporte’s committee delineated precise boundaries for the 88 constellations. He divided Serpens into two parts, Serpens Caput (the head) to the west and Serpens Cauda (the tail) in the east.
The constellation Ophiuchus (the serpent bearer) is situated between the two halves. This makes Serpens the only constellation that is bisected by another.
The famous Eagle Nebula is located in the constellation Serpens. A famous 1995 Hubble Telescope image, “Pillars of Creation”, depicts to plumes of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula.
The Serpens constellation can be seen from Hudson Bay to Australia.
Serpens is bordered by Aquila, Boötes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, Libra, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, Scutum, and Virgo.
Right Ascension: 04:28
Diameter (°): 39
Area (square °): 637
Opposition: May 30
Size Rank: 23rd
Brightness Rank: 36th
Major or notable stars in Serpens
Unukalhai – α Serpentis (Alpha Serpentis)
η Serpentis (Eta Serpentis)
μ Serpentis (Mu Serpentis)
ξ Serpentis (Xi Serpentis)
β Serpentis (Beta Serpentis)
ε Serpentis (Epsilon Serpentis)
δ Serpentis (Delta Serpentis)
γ Serpentis (Gamma Serpentis)
κ Serpentis (Kappa Serpentis)
ν Serpentis (Nu Serpentis)
λ Serpentis (Lambda Serpentis)
Alya – θ Serpentis (Theta Serpentis)
χ Serpentis (Chi Serpentis)
τ Serpentis (Tau Serpentis)
Deep Sky Objects in Serpens
Messier 5 (M5, NGC 5904)
Eagle Nebula – Messier 16 (M16, NGC 6611)
Seyfert’s Sextet – NGC 6027
Red Square Nebula – MWC 922
Serpens South star cluster
Blinking Galaxy – NGC 6118
Mythology of the Constellation Serpens
Very ancient, the serpent has always been shown as grasped in the hands of Ophiuchus. It is divided into two parts by some catalogues. Serpens Caput (the head) and Serpens Cauda (the tail) on either side of the serpent holder.
The ancient Greek myth of Serpens is tied directly to the story of the healer, Ophiuchus. It is said to represent the serpent that brought a medicinal herb to the son of Apollo, Ophiuchus (Asclepius). With this herb, Ophiuchus became the first doctor and restored life to dying mortals.
Unfortunately, the Gods felt that the ability to restore life would give immortality to mankind. Because this would throw off the balance of Heaven and Earth, Zeus killed Ophiuchus with a thunderbolt forged by the Cyclopes.
The Caduceus, two snake entwined around a staff is the symbol for medicine today. This may be an homage to Ophiuchus as the first doctor. It may also be because the snake signifies the shedding of skin and a renewed life or well-being.
The ancient biblical interpreters saw snakes differently. They would suggest the snake originated in the Garden of Eden and was a seducer of Eve. St. Patrick is said to have driven the snakes out of Ireland in the 5th Century.
The Serpens constellation is also seen as a great wall surrounding the celestial marketplace (Tianshi) in Chinese astronomy.