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Is Ophiuchus a Constellation or a Sign?

CEO Khai Intela
If you're familiar with astrology, you may have come across the intriguing name, Ophiuchus. But is it a constellation or a sign? Let's dive into this forgotten celestial wonder and unravel its secrets. The Forgotten...

Star chart: Constellation Ophiuchus with parts labeled above red supergiant star Antares.

If you're familiar with astrology, you may have come across the intriguing name, Ophiuchus. But is it a constellation or a sign? Let's dive into this forgotten celestial wonder and unravel its secrets.

The Forgotten Constellation

Ophiuchus, also known as the Serpent Bearer, is often referred to as the 13th or the forgotten constellation of the zodiac. It falls between November 30 and December 18 each year when the sun passes in front of it. However, interestingly, no one identifies themselves as being born under the influence of Ophiuchus.

Ophiuchus, unlike the zodiac signs, is indeed a constellation. The twelve signs of the tropical zodiac represent equal 30-degree divisions of the sky. Each zodiac sign corresponds to a specific period when the sun appears in front of it, typically lasting about a month. On the other hand, the constellations are different in size and shape, and the sun, moon, and planets traverse through them for varying amounts of time.

Antique color etching of old bald bearded man in ancient Greek garb holding a long writhing snake.

Ophiuchus, a Short Hop North of Antares

If you find yourself in the Northern Hemisphere on a clear July night, look towards the southern sky to catch a glimpse of Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer. Its stars are faint, so you'll need a dark sky to fully appreciate its beauty. In the Southern Hemisphere, you can find Ophiuchus more overhead around mid-evening.

To locate Ophiuchus, look for the bright red star Antares in the neighboring constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. Once you've found Antares, Ophiuchus is just a short hop to the north. Keep in mind that Ophiuchus' brightest star, Rasalhague, is not as bright as Antares, but it marks the head of the serpent bearer.

Star chart with black stars on white showing constellation Ophiuchus.

Ophiuchus, Snake Venom, and Access to Immortality

According to ancient Greek star lore, Ophiuchus is depicted as Asclepius, the physician who held the serpent Serpens. Legend has it that Asclepius mixed the venom of the serpent with the Gorgon's blood and an unknown herb to create a potion that granted humans access to immortality. This remarkable story of healing and the pursuit of eternal life lives on today through the symbol of the World Health Organization, the Staff of Asclepius, which pays tribute to Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer.

In conclusion, Ophiuchus may be a forgotten constellation in the realm of astrology, but its story and significance in ancient mythology make it a captivating celestial wonder. So, if you ever find yourself gazing at the night sky, take a moment to appreciate the hidden beauty of Ophiuchus, the overlooked zodiacal constellation.

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