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What is Serpens Caput and Serpens Cauda?

Serpens Caput (Head) and Serpens Cauda (Tail) are two parts of the same constellation, Serpens. The Serpens constellation is unique amongst all the constellations in the night sky in that it is split. They are separated in the middle by the constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Holder.

The legend is that in old days, snake venom was used to cure ills. Ophiuchus also known Asclepius was one such healer and the Serpens constellation represent the snake his used. Asclepius was too good a healer and was therefore put into the skies.

Serpens Caput (Head)

Serpens Caput is located on the eastern side of Ophiuchus when you look at it. Serpens Caput has a T-junction at the top of the head where the stars Gamma Serpentis and Iota Serpentis represent the eyes of the serpents' head. The body of the snake follows drown from Kappa Serpentis to Mu Serpentis where the constellation disappears until it reappears on the other side of Ophiuchus

Serpents Cauda (Tail)

Serpens Cauda is located on the western side of Ophiuchus when you look at it from down here. The tail starts from Eta Ophiuchii which is actually part of the neighbouring constellation. The tail winds its way up the skies to finish at Theta1 Serpentis.

Serpens Points of Interest

Brightest Stars

The brightest star in the constellation is Unukalhai which can be found in head. The brightest star in the tail is Eta Serpentis. Both stars are visible in the night sky and no binoculars are needed to see them. They are red giants and therefore nearing the ends of this lives as they are growing in size, the outward pressure overcoming the inward pressure of gravity.

Hoag's Object

An interesting sight in the constellation is Hoag's Object, an interesting galaxy discovered by Arthur Hoag in 1950. It can be located near the north eastern edge near Bootes, the Herdsman. Hoag's Object is a galaxy that lies about 9.4 million light years. It is shaped like an egg. At the core is a bright yellow centre then what looks like a gap and then a ring.


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