In this mythological depiction Ophiuchus holds a wriggly Serpens the snake. Taurus Poniatowski above the snake’s tail is an obsolete constellation that never survived the cut. Urania’s Mirror / Sidney Hall
Just about everyone knows Cassiopeia, Orion and the Dippers, but have you ever run across Ophiuchus? Pronounced oh-fee-YOU-cuss, this big constellation is now front and center at nightfall in early August. I bet you’ve looked right past Ophiuchus any number of times en route to Saturn or the Sagittarius “Teapot.” Now seems like the right time to meet the serpent-bearer and his serpent. You don’t even have to stay up late. Just step outside near the end of evening twilight and face south. He’s right there.
The constellation is an ancient one, going back to at least the ancient Greeks of the 2nd century. Ophiuchus represents a man holding a snake, but his outline better resembles a bell. Branching out either side of the bell is a unique constellation, Serpens. It’s the only one that’s split into two separate non-touching parts. There’s Serpens Caput (serpent’s head) to the right or west of Ophiuchus and Serpens Cauda (tail) to the east.
To find the serpent-bearer, start at Saturn, now almost ...