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The Constellation Ophiuchus


Image modified from http://www.coldwater.k12.mi.us/lms/planetarium/myth/ophiuchus.html

  The constellation Ophiuchus is mythically linked to the first doctor in history, Aesculapius.  Aescolapius learned of the healing power of herbs from a serpent; he killed one serpent, and another came with healing herbs and brought the first back to life.  Thereafter, he spent his life learning about the healing arts and bringing beings back to life.

  During this time, Hades, the god of the underworld, was getting angry; fewer and fewer people were dying, because Aesculapius was healing them and bringing them back to life, so Hades approaches Zeus and tells him that Aesculapius must be stopped, that if he is allowed to continue, people would become immortal.  This would not be right, because only gods can be immortal, according to Zeus; he agrees with Hades and just as Aesculapius is about to bring Orion, the famous hunter, back to life, Zeus strikes him dead with a thunderbolt.  But Zeus admires the skills of Aesculapius, so he puts him among the stars, as the constellation Ophiuchus.

 

  The constellation Ophiuchus, and stars angularly near it, have been home to several novas in recent history; the Greeks observed one in 134 BC, there was another in 123 AD and another after that in 1230 AD, and then one called Kepler's Star in 1604 and another, the fifth, in 1848.  It would not be at all suprising if people of times past looked on this constellation with a fair bit of wonder, just because of all the strange, then-inexplicable things happening there.

 

  Most of the information for this page was gathered from the Legg Middle School Planetarium's Ophiuchus page.