mardi 23 septembre 2008


This constellation is unique, for it is divided into two parts – Serpens Caput, the head, and Serpens Cauda, the tail. Nevertheless, astronomers regard it as a single constellation. Serpens represents a huge snake held by the constellation Ophiuchus. In his left hand Ophiuchus grasps the top half of the snake, while his right hand holds the tail. Aratus and Manilius agreed that Serpens was coiled around the body of Ophiuchus, but most star atlases show the snake simply passing between his legs (for an illustration of the full tableau, see Ophiuchus).
In mythology, Ophiuchus was identified as the healer Asclepius, son of Apollo, although why he appears to be wrestling with a serpent in the sky is not fully explained. His connection with snakes is attributed to the story that he once killed a snake that was miraculously restored to life by a herb placed on it by another snake. Asclepius subsequently used the same technique to revive dead people. Snakes are the symbol of rebirth because they shed their skins every year.
The star Alpha Serpentis is called Unukalhai from the Arabic meaning ‘the serpent’s neck’, where it is located. The tip of the serpent’s tail is marked by Theta Serpentis, called Alya, an Arabic word that actually refers to a sheep’s tail. The most celebrated object in Serpens is a star cluster called M16, embedded in a gas cloud called the Eagle Nebula, the subject of a famous photograph by the Hubble Space Telescope.

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