In this article, we’ll be sharing with you everything you need to know about the constellation of Corvus, including how to find it, deep space objects contained within it and how to use it to find other night sky objects more easily.

The Constellation of Corvus 

This constellation was known to several ancient cultures. The Chinese knew it as part of a chariot, the Arabs knew it as a tent and mariners from a variety of cultures knew it as ‘the Sail’.

Corvus is one of the constellations that Greek astronomer Ptolemy cataloged over 2,000 years ago and ‘Corvus’ means ‘crow’ or ‘raven’ in Latin.

There are two Greek myths associated with this constellation. In one, Corvus was Apollo’s sacred white raven and was given the task of looking after Apollo’s pregnant wife Coronis. Coronis fell in love with a mortal man and when Corvus reported this to Apollo, Apollo punished the crow by turning all of his feathers black.

In the second myth, Apollo sent Corvus to fetch him some water in a cup. Corvus became distracted and knowing that Apollo would be angry, made up a story about how a water snake, Hydra, had attacked him and caused the delay. Corvus returned to Apollo without the water and Apollo was so angry that he put Corvus, Hydra and the cup (Crater) into the heavens, where Hydra prevents Corvus from drinking from the cup.

To help you spot Corvus, here’s what SkySafari 6 shows.

Corvus as shown by SkySafari
Corvus as shown by SkySafari. Click for full-screen.

Corvus has an area of 184 square degrees making it the 70th largest of the 88 recognized constellations. Corvus is known for its asterism called ‘The Sail’ or ‘Spica’s Spanker’, which consists of Delta, Gamma, Epsilon and Beta Corvi.

The boundaries and neighboring constellations for Corvus
The boundaries and neighboring constellations for Corvus. Click for full-screen.

In the next section discover how to find Corvus.

How To Find Corvus In The Night Sky

Corvus is part of the Hercules family of constellations and is visible to observers at latitudes between +60° and -90°. Northern Hemisphere observers can see it from January until May and Southern Hemisphere observers can see it year round. The constellation of Corvus is bordered by the constellations Crater, Hydra, and Virgo. 

Corvus at 10:00 p.m. in mid-May
Corvus at 10:00 p.m. in mid-May. Click for full-screen.

To find Corvus, do a naked-eye search for the Big Dipper and use its handle to “arc to Arcturus” and then onward to Spica (see a diagram for this here). From there, look for Algorab which is roughly 14° southwest of Spica. 

To find Corvus’s exact position for your location on any night, use software such as Stellarium (free) or SkySafari.

Corvus’s Brightest Stars 

Corvus is a small constellation and has very few stars of magnitude five or brighter. The ones that it does have are shown in the star chart below and recounted in more detail underneath that.

The brightest stars of Corvus
The brightest stars of Corvus. Click for full-screen.

Alpha Corvi (Alchiba) – This magnitude 4.03, yellow-white giant is the fifth brightest star in Corvus. It’s 48 light-years away. ‘Alchiba’ means ‘tent’ in Arabic. This may be a spectrographic binary. 

Beta Corvi (Kraz) – This magnitude 2.66, yellow-orange giant, variable star is the second brightest star in Corvus and, is the southeastern star in the Sail asterism. It’s an eruptive variable ranging in magnitude from 2.60 to 2.66. It’s 104 light-years away. 

Gamma Corvi (Gienah Corvi, Gienah Ghurab) – This variable double star is the brightest star in Corvus and is the northwestern star in the Sail asterism. The magnitude 2.58, blue-white giant, primary and magnitude 9.70, secondary component are 1.1 arcseconds apart. This eruptive variable ranges in magnitude from 2.56 to 2.60. Gamma Corvi is 165 light-years away. ‘Gienash Ghurab’ is derived from the Arabic for ‘the right wing of the crow’.

Delta Corvi (Algorab) – This variable double star is the third brightest star in Corvus and marks the northeast corner of the Sail asterism. The magnitude 2.97, blue-white, main sequence, primary and magnitude 8.47, secondary component are 24.6 arcseconds apart. This eruptive variable ranges in magnitude from 2.91 to 2.96. Algorab is 88 light-years away.

Epsilon Corvi (Minkar) – This magnitude 3.00, orange giant is the fourth brightest star in Corvus and marks the southwest corner of the Sail. It’s an eruptive variable ranging in magnitude from 2.98 to 3.06. Minkar is 303 light-years away. ‘Minkar’ is derived from the Arabic for ‘the Raven’s Beak’.

Zeta Corvi – This variable double star is 415 light-years away. The magnitude 5.21, blue-white, main sequence, primary and magnitude 13.70, secondary component are 15.8 arcseconds apart. This is an eruptive variable and may be a multiple system.

Eta Corvi – This variable double star is 60 light-years away. The magnitude 4.30, yellow-white giant, primary and secondary component are 12.9 arcseconds apart. This is an eruptive variable ranging in magnitude from 4.29 to 4.32. 

VV Corvi – This variable double star is 257 light-years away. The magnitude 5.17, yellow-white main sequence, primary and magnitude 10.28, secondary component are 59.1 arcseconds apart. This is an eclipsing variable ranging in magnitude from 5.19 to 5.34. 

Star Hopping From Corvus 

Corvus’s small size and dim stars make it a poor starting point for star hopping

Objects To See Within Corvus 

Corvus contains no Messier objects and no other deep sky objects suitable for small telescope users. 

Summary

Corvus is a small, dim constellation without any Messier objects or other deep sky objects for small telescope users. Look for it’s ‘Sail’ asterism near Spica.

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