Star Constellations: The Zodiac

Star Constellations: The Zodiac

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I am trying to track down the original artist for the Zodiac diagram found here. I would like to obtain permission to use the diagram as an illustration in an astronomy book I have written.

The diagram can be found at many locations on the web, but, as far as I can tell, none of them claim copyright nor mention the diagram's original creator.

The link above appears to point to the earliest version. It is on the blog of Peter Christoforou, but there is no contact information for him listed there.

Does anyone have information that would help me track down the source of this diagram?

Here is a slightly older blog post with a slightly crisper version of that image. A higher resolution version with month labels appears in a 2019 SyFy article and in various blogs dating back to 2014 or earlier. Years of missing or inadequate attribution have made the true origin difficult to determine.

The month labels correspond not to the constellations shown but to the tropical signs, 30° blocks of ecliptic longitude named after the constellations which were nearest over 2000 years ago. The signs have moved almost 30° westward due to precession since then. To avoid confusion, you should remove or replace the month labels.

If you follow James K's suggestion to create a new image, you or a collaborator could use planetarium software for accurate placement, and then it would be appropriate to credit the software.

Star Constellations

The advent of spring in the Northern Hemisphere is slowly ushering in improved seeing conditions, and along with it, a few seasonal constellations that had been out of view for some time. Apart from Ursa […]

Northern Hemisphere Constellations of the Winter Sky

While northern hemisphere observers can observe a total of 30 constellations at various times of the year, there are seven constellations traditionally associated with the winter months, headed by Orion, with its nearby constellations including […]

Star Constellations: The Zodiac

There are 88 modern constellations occupying different regions of the sky, with the 12 zodiac constellations situated within a 9° band either side of the ecliptic plane. This 18 ° wide imaginary line traces the […]

Autumn Constellations of the Northern Hemisphere

As summer turns to autumn in the northern hemisphere, the changing season brings many changes to the night sky as the Summer Triangle which has dominated overhead for several months now begins to sink lower […]

Summer Constellations of the Northern Hemisphere

As the Earth makes its annual orbit around the Sun, we are able to see different constellations in the night sky depending upon the season of the year, and our location on the planet. While […]

Star Constellation Facts: Corona Borealis

Corona Borealis (“the northern crown”) is a small but recognizable horseshoe shaped constellation that is found in a relatively empty part of northern sky. It is said to represent the crown of Ariadne, a princess […]

Star Constellation Facts: Corona Australis

Corona Australis (“the southern crown”) is the southern sky’s counterpart to Corona Borealis (“the northern crown”), and despite being rather small and faint, it is nonetheless a rather beautiful constellation on account of its distinctive […]

Star Constellation Facts: Piscis Austrinus

Piscis Austrinus (“the southern fish”) was known to the ancients and is said to represent the parent of the pair of fish associated with the zodiacal constellation of Pisces. The brightest star in this southern […]

Star Constellation Facts: Sextans

Sextans (“the Sextant”) is an extremely faint southern hemisphere constellation that was created by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in 1687. It is found close to the celestial equator, with its brightest star, Alpha Sextantis, […]

Star Constellation Facts: Chamaeleon

Chamaeleon (“the chameleon”) is a small, dim southern constellation that like its namesake is difficult to find. It was devised by astronomer Petrus Plancius based upon the observations of Dutch navigators, with its brightest star, […]

God’s Revelations about the Constellations

In Job 38, there is a monologue from God directed to Job who had stated his case for his own self-righteousness. Job believed that he was blameless before God and man and did not deserve the severe troubles and afflictions that plagued him. Job said that he wanted God to answer him so that Job could justify himself and give God an account of his every step.

During God’s response to Job, God challenged him with this: “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations (Mazzaroth) in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?” (Job 38:31-32 NIV).

Thus, we see from the above passage and elsewhere in the Bible that the constellations and stars have names. In Psalm 147:4 we are told: “[God] determines the number of stars and calls them each by name.” This is stated similarly in Isaiah 40:25-26: “To whom will you compare Me? Or who is My equal?” says the Holy One. “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.”

The Bible does not give us all the names of the constellations as God has called them. There are about four constellations that are identified by name in the Bible. Through astronomy, the scientific study of space and the universe, man has identified about 88 constellations. Man’s assignment of names to the constellations is helpful in distinguishing one constellation from another.

But God created them all and God has a name for every star and all the constellations.

Zodiac Stars

This article lists names, brightness and position for most of the brightest visible stars in the twelve zodiac constellation figures. "Zodiac" refers to the set of twelve constellations through which the sun and planets appear to move because the earth and other planets are located in approximately the same plane (see Fig. 1). Make sure you understand that illustration before going on, so it will all make more sense.

Fig. 1. Every year the sun appears to move through all 12 zodiac constellations.
Fig. 2 shows the circle of the 12 zodiac constellations. This article contains the tables from which this star map was made. The article is mostly just for reference, but it does contain an explanation of how to understand the map.

The outer black circle is called the "ecliptic" (because that is where eclipses occur). It is the path on which the sun appears to travel clockwise through the heavens once each year. Thus, the sun moves through each of the twelve zodiac constellations about at a rate of about one per month. Astronomers measure the angular position of stars along that circle and call it "celestial longitude". That is one way to specify exactly where a star appears to be, assuming they are all at the same distance on a transparent "celestial sphere" (which of course they are not). The angular distance inside or outside of that ecliptic circle is called the "celestial latitude".

There is a problem with celestial longitude: the place from which astronomers begin their measurement is continually moving around the ecliptic circle. That zero-point is called the "vernal equinox", and its position on the ecliptic in a given year is shown in Fig. 2 under the fish in the "6 o'clock" area. The number 2000 (meaning AD 2000) under the knot in the tail of that fish shows about where it is today. That motion requires star maps to be updated every fifty years or so, which is troublesome.

Frustrated that the zero-point moves, and wanting "permanent" star coordinates, this author has defined "sidereal coordinates" (see "Coordinates for the Constellations"), including both sidereal latitude and longitude. "Sidereal" refers to stars, so it means a system based on the actual location of the stars and not tied to the moving earth, as is the vernal equinox. Sidereal longitude is measured in degrees from a fixed star (the left eye of Virgo in Fig. 2). For most practical purposes, the value remains fixed over time, solving the map-drift problem. Sidereal latitude refers to the usual ecliptic latitude, which remains relatively fixed (listed as of 2000).

Fig. 2. Zodiac constellations.

As an example of how to read sidereal longitude, the lines shown dividing the constellations are exactly 30° apart from each other. Thus, looking at Virgo (the Maiden), the first zodiac constellation, we see a bright star (big black dot) in the stalk of grain she holds in her left hand. It is called Spica, meaning "ear of wheat". The first line past it is the 30° line, so we can estimate from the figure that the sidereal longitude of Spica is about 26°. This article lists the sidereal longitude of all the main stars in the zodiac figures.

Each star position on this map was carefully calculated according to its exact sidereal latitude and longitude. Moreover, a serious attempt was made to show the location of each star in the figure precisely according to the descriptions in Ptolemy's ancient Greek star catalog. Stars not actually located in the figures as described by Ptolemy are not included. Because I could not find such an illustration, back in 1990 I hired an artist to draw it according to my specifications. The only exception is the Scales, which Ptolemy did not include. Star names were used in that case to draw the figure.

At the 2 o'clock position, there is a V-shaped break that cuts the legs of the scorpion, and a similar break in the lion's forelegs. The V is only shown if it cuts between stars in a figure, but there is really an implied "V" cut like that at every one of the 30° lines of longitude from the clock numbers. The V is caused because the map is of the overhead spherical-appearing dome of stars, and beyond the ecliptic the pictures begin to converge toward each other, even as the ones inside the ecliptic converge to a point at the center of the circle. Think of printing out this map and then cutting along the sides of the V-shape, and taping those two edges together to approximate the spherical shape being represented on the map.

The first three columns of the following tables contain the usual star designation, which uses Greek letters usually ordered by brightness. It lists traditional names used by astronomers, with the symbol

used to give the translation in the Notes. The English column is my personal choice, which is based on ancient sources unless my initials JPP are added, meaning that no such sources are known to me of what appears should be the name.

The column Mv lists the "Visual Magnitude". That refers to the brightness of the star, with first magnitude being the brightest and sixth the dimmest. All the stars in the Big Dipper are of second magnitude. Stars brighter than 3.0 are listed in italics, and those brighter than 1.6 are also in bold. Then the sidereal latitude and longitude are listed in degrees.

In the Notes, LM indicates my choice for "Lunar Mansion", one of a set of 28 stars spaced about every 13° around the ecliptic. That is approximately the angle that the moon travels every day through the stars. Along with my LM choices, the Arab and ancient Babylonian versions are also listed, taken from Allen's Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning, where he quotes Epping. My choices are shown in italics.

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The Zodiac

The constellations have been called humanity's oldest picture book. For 5,000 and more years, people have looked into a clear night sky and seen the same stars we see today. They isolated groups of stars and connected them to each other with imaginary lines, much as we play connect-the-dots.

In the past, people had an excellent knowledge of the night sky. They were able to tell when to plant and when to harvest, and later they navigated the seas with the stars' help. Characters of myth and legend were used to name and tell the stories of the stars. Here are a few.

The group of stars that looked like a man with a sword was named Orion, for the famous hunter in Greek mythology. The pattern that looked like twin boys they called Gemini, the Twins. The large, bright group of stars in the shape of a lion is known as Leo. According to Greek mythology, Leo was the fierce lion killed by Hercules.

There are millions of stars, but only 5,780 are visible to the naked eye. The largest constellation is Hydra, the Sea Serpent. The smallest constellation is Crux, the Southern Cross.

Twelve constellations, together called the Zodiac, form a belt around the earth. As the earth revolves around the sun, a different part of the sky becomes visible until, after a year, the earth has completed one trip and starts again. Each month, one of the 12 constellations appears above the horizon in the east to begin its march across the sky. Night after night, the constellation appears to move across our sky until it disappears below the horizon in the west and the next constellation appears in the east.

The word Zodiac comes from both Greek and Latin. It means ?circle of figures? or ?circle of life.? According to the ancient Romans, the year began on the spring equinox, with Aries.

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The Constellations

The constellation Orion is one of the most recognizable in the night sky. (Image Courtesy of Sky and Telescope)

What is a Constellation?

In modern astronomy, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere. These areas are grouped around asterisms (which themselves are generally referred to in non-technical language as “constellations”), which are patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on Earth’s night sky.

The Late Latin term constellātiō can be translated as “set with stars”. The term was first used in astrology, of asterisms that supposedly exerted influence, attested in Ammianus (4th century). In English the term was used from the 14th century, also in astrology, of conjunctions of planets. The modern astronomical sense of “area of the celestial sphere around a specific asterism” dates to the mid 16th century.

Colloquial usage does not distinguish the senses of “asterism” and “area surrounding an asterism”. The modern system of constellations used in astronomy focuses primarily on constellations as grid-like segments of the celestial sphere rather than as patterns, while the term for a star-pattern is asterism. For example, the asterism known as the Big Dipper corresponds to the seven brightest stars of the larger IAU constellation of Ursa Major.

The term circumpolar constellation is used for any constellation that, from a particular latitude on Earth, never sets below the horizon. From the north pole, all constellations north of the celestial equator are circumpolar constellations. In the northern latitudes, the informal term equatorial constellation has sometimes been used for constellations that lie to the south of the circumpolar constellations. Depending on the definition, equatorial constellations can include those that lie entirely between declinations 45° north and 45° south,or those that pass overhead between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. They generally include all constellations that intersect the celestial equator.

What is the Zodiac?

In both astrology and historical astronomy, the zodiac (Greek: ζῳδιακός, zōdiakos) is a circle of twelve 30° divisions of celestial longitude that are centered upon the ecliptic: the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year. The paths of the Moon and visible planets also remain close to the ecliptic, within the belt of the zodiac, which extends 8-9° north or south of the ecliptic, as measured in celestial latitude. Historically, these twelve divisions are called signs. Essentially, the zodiac is a celestial coordinate system, or more specifically an ecliptic coordinate system, which takes the ecliptic as the origin of latitude, and the position of the sun at vernal equinox as the origin of longitude.

The image below depicts the twelve signs of the modern zodiac along the ecliptic.

The Original Christian Zodiac

What if everything you were ever taught or believed about astronomy, horoscopes, and the Zodiac were false? What if the original Zodiac was changed to such an extent that no one knew its original meaning?

The daily horoscopes printed in newspapers, magazines, or online, have altered the original horoscope God inscribed in the heavens when he created the world.

In Primeval Astronomy, &ldquoThe Gospel in the Stars,&rdquo theologian and Lutheran minister in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, Joseph Augustus Seiss, explains the purpose of the stars and their constellations in their original context.

According to a 1904 New York Times abstract, Seiss was long distinguished as a preacher and writer and founder of the The General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America in 1867.

In a lecture entitled, &ldquoThe Starry Worlds,&rdquo first published in 1882, he attests: &ldquoSuch wonderful creations of almighty power and wisdom were not without a purpose.&rdquo

Fresco of Jesus at the center of the Zodiac in the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (Cathedral of the Living Pillar) in Mtskheta, Georgia, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Copyright: Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0,

(Another beautiful image similar to the above image of Jesus at the center of the Solar Zodiac can be found in a private 16th century monastery, Moni Dekoulou-&Mu&omicron&nuή &Delta&epsilon&kappa&omicronύ&lambda&omicron&upsilon, in Aposkieri Mesa Mani, Peloponnesus, Greece. (Near Corinth.))

Seiss explains that stars and groups of stars, known as constellations, were created to fill the galaxy in a particular order for a very specific purpose. God created the stars (Gen. 1:16) and positioned them in their exact places in the universe (Ps. 8:3). Stars were, &ldquofor signs and for seasons, and for days and for years, in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon t he earth.&rdquo (Gen. 1:14, 15)

Stars were so important that God named them.

&ldquoHe determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.&rdquo (Ps. 147:4)

&ldquo Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.&rdquo (Is.20:26)

Consider the stars&rsquo names and their meaning, which &ldquoall declare the Glory of God.&rdquo (Ps. 19):

  • Orion: &ldquoComing as light,&rdquo the Prince of Light
  • Rigel: &ldquoThe foot that crushes&rdquo [the serpent]
  • Saiph: [and the foot that] &ldquobruised&rdquo [the serpent]
  • Betelgeuse: &ldquoThe coming of the branch,&rdquo which represents &ldquothe shoot from the stump of Jesse&rdquo (Isa. 11:1)
  • Bellatrix: &ldquoSwiftly destroying,&rdquo who is the prince who avenges his people and
  • Al Nitak: &ldquoThe wounded,&rdquo the One who redeems his people.

In fact, the 24 brightest stars seen from Earth, are referenced in verses from Genesis to Revelation, Seiss points out.

These constellations are undeniably evident to everyone, Seiss argues, as does David throughout the Psalms.

Scripture is not silent: everything in God&rsquos creation, he ordered with a specific purpose.

Mathematicians and scientists have discovered exact distances between the Earth and the Sun. The Earth completely revolves around the Sun in increments of 12&ndash at an angle&ndash every 365.25 days. The Earth routinely, every year, tilts nearest the Sun (perihelion) in early January and farthest from the Sun (aphelion) in early July.

The twelve signs of the Solar Zodiac mark something significant about specific periods of time. Avah, Hebrew for &ldquosigns,&rdquoand Moed, Hebrew for &ldquoseasons,&rdquo indicate that the stars mark something fixed and/or appointed&ndash specific to history.

Pointing to the writings and work of Cicero, the Chaldeans, Egyptians, Phoenecians, and to some of his more contemporary counterparts, Richer, Roberts, Dupuis, Clarke, Smith and Syce, Seiss explains that this mathematical precision, and God&rsquos artistic illustration connecting each star, tell the gospel story. He notes that even before these men, others had, &ldquoobserved, classified, grouped and designated the starry worlds, assigning them their names, marking their courses, and making them the bearers of wisdom the dearest and most precious ever made known to man.&rdquo

Because of their research and precision, he remarks, &ldquothe stellar glories took order, shape and readable meaning which the depravities of the after ages have not been able to set aside.&rdquo

Meaning, there is a traceable, original purpose in the stars.

Any story anyone ascribes to these constellations other than their true gospel meaning is false.

&ldquoEvil is always perverted good, as dirt is simply matter out of place. It is the spoilation of some better thing going before it. And so there is reason to think that there is, after all, some great original, divine science connected with the stars, which astrology has prostituted to its own base ends, and which is our duty to search out and turn to its proper evangelical use.&rdquo

Not only are the star groups, &ldquointensely symbolic and significant,&rdquo they also are founded on &ldquoindisputable astronomic truth.&rdquo

The same star groups are recognized universally among all traditions, cultures, and faiths. Through these symbols the story of the gospel was made known to everyone in every generation&ndash and sadly, the perversion of it was also made known.

Throughout his lecture Seiss describes in detail the purpose of the constellations, the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the planets, the alphabet, and the &ldquodesire&rdquo of nations. He also references the discoveries of one of the foremost scholars of ancient classics, Frances Rolleston, whose work, Mazzaroth, was published in 1863. Rolleston&rsquos pioneering research provided much of the insight knowable today, connecting ancient meanings to modern vernacular.

The gospel is laid out in pictures throughout the constellations of: a serpent, a cross, a dragon, a virgin, a seed, the serpent&rsquos destroyer, conflict with the dragon, a lamb, a prince and kings, water, fish, sheep and a shepherd, warriors, and a lion.

The stars are a continual reminder that the Seed of the woman (depicted in Virgo) will ultimately triumph over the Serpent. (Gen. 3:15) God&rsquos revelation is constantly told in the stars (Ps. 19) &mdash which is a message of salvation &mdash available to every generation who professes faith. The entire ancient world received the message of the gospel prior to Christ ever being born&ndash through the stars.

The North Rose Window of The Saint Denis Cathedral is called, &ldquoThe Creation.&rdquo &ldquoGod the Creator,&rdquo is depicted in the center, surrounded by &ldquoThe Days of Creation.&rdquo The days are surrounded by each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, which represent &ldquoThe Order of the Heavens.&rdquo Outside of the Zodiac is the &ldquoLabor of the Months,&rdquo which depict the &ldquoOrder of Earth.&rdquo In each corner outside of this circle are images of the &ldquoFall of Mankind.&rdquo Originally constructed c. 1145, repaired 1805. Paris, France. Copyright: TTaylor [CC BY-SA (] Twelve articles explain the biblical meaning behind each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, their star groupings, and their part in telling the gospel story. The constellations are categorized into three groupings.


Ophiuchus lies between Aquila, Serpens, Scorpius, Sagittarius, and Hercules, northwest of the center of the Milky Way. The southern part lies between Scorpius to the west and Sagittarius to the east. [2] [3] [4] In the northern hemisphere, it is best visible in summer. [5] It is opposite Orion. Ophiuchus is depicted as a man grasping a serpent the interposition of his body divides the snake constellation Serpens into two parts, Serpens Caput and Serpens Cauda. Ophiuchus straddles the equator with the majority of its area lying in the southern hemisphere. Rasalhague, its brightest star, lies near the northern edge of Ophiuchus at about +12° 30′ declination. [6] The constellation extends southward to −30° declination. Segments of the ecliptic within Ophiuchus are south of −20° declination. [ citation needed ]

In contrast to Orion, from November to January (summer in the Southern Hemisphere, winter in the Northern Hemisphere), Ophiuchus is in the daytime sky and thus not visible at most latitudes. However, for much of the Arctic Circle in the Northern Hemisphere's winter months, the Sun is below the horizon even at midday. Stars (and thus parts of Ophiuchus, especially Rasalhague) are then visible at twilight for a few hours around local noon, low in the south. In the Northern Hemisphere's spring and summer months, when Ophiuchus is normally visible in the night sky, the constellation is actually not visible, because the midnight sun obscures the stars at those times and places in the Arctic. In countries close to the equator, Ophiuchus appears overhead in June around midnight and in the October evening sky. [ citation needed ]

Stars Edit

The brightest stars in Ophiuchus include α Ophiuchi, called Rasalhague ("head of the serpent charmer"), at magnitude 2.07, and η Ophiuchi, known as Sabik ("the preceding one"), at magnitude 2.43. [7] Other bright stars in the constellation include β Ophiuchi, Cebalrai ("dog of the shepherd") [8] and λ Ophiuchi, or Marfik ("the elbow"). [9]

RS Ophiuchi is part of a class called recurrent novae, whose brightness increase at irregular intervals by hundreds of times in a period of just a few days. It is thought to be at the brink of becoming a type-1a supernova. [10] Barnard's Star, one of the nearest stars to the Solar System (the only stars closer are the Alpha Centauri binary star system and Proxima Centauri), lies in Ophiuchus. It is located to the left of β and just north of the V-shaped group of stars in an area that was once occupied by the now-obsolete constellation of Taurus Poniatovii (Poniatowski's Bull). In 2005, astronomers using data from the Green Bank Telescope discovered a superbubble so large that it extends beyond the plane of the galaxy. [11] It is called the Ophiuchus Superbubble.

In April 2007, astronomers announced that the Swedish-built Odin satellite had made the first detection of clouds of molecular oxygen in space, following observations in the constellation Ophiuchus. [12] The supernova of 1604 was first observed on 9 October 1604, near θ Ophiuchi. Johannes Kepler saw it first on 16 October and studied it so extensively that the supernova was subsequently called Kepler's Supernova. He published his findings in a book titled De stella nova in pede Serpentarii ("On the New Star in Ophiuchus's Foot"). Galileo used its brief appearance to counter the Aristotelian dogma that the heavens are changeless. In 2009 it was announced that GJ 1214, a star in Ophiuchus, undergoes repeated, cyclical dimming with a period of about 1.5 days consistent with the transit of a small orbiting planet. [13] The planet's low density (about 40% that of Earth) suggests that the planet may have a substantial component of low-density gas—possibly hydrogen or steam. [14] The proximity of this star to Earth (42 light years) makes it a tempting target for further observations. [ according to whom? ] In April 2010, the naked-eye star ζ Ophiuchi was occulted by the asteroid 824 Anastasia. [15] [16] [17]

The constellation Ophiuchus as it can be seen by naked eye. [18]

Johannes Kepler's drawing depicting the location of the stella nova in the foot of Ophiuchus.

Deep-sky objects Edit

Ophiuchus contains several star clusters, such as IC 4665, NGC 6633, M9, M10, M12, M14, M19, M62, and M107, as well as the nebula IC 4603-4604. M10 is a fairly close globular cluster, only 20,000 light-years from Earth. It has a magnitude of 6.6 and is a Shapley class VII cluster. This means that it has "intermediate" concentration it is only somewhat concentrated towards its center. [19]

The unusual galaxy merger remnant and starburst galaxy NGC 6240 is also in Ophiuchus. At a distance of 400 million light-years, this "butterfly-shaped" galaxy has two supermassive black holes 3,000 light-years apart. Confirmation of the fact that both nuclei contain black holes was obtained by spectra from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Astronomers estimate that the black holes will merge in another billion years. NGC 6240 also has an unusually high rate of star formation, classifying it as a starburst galaxy. This is likely due to the heat generated by the orbiting black holes and the aftermath of the collision. [20]

In 2006, a new nearby star cluster was discovered associated with the 4th magnitude star Mu Ophiuchi. [21] The Mamajek 2 cluster appears to be a poor cluster remnant analogous to the Ursa Major Moving Group, but 7 times more distant (approximately 170 parsecs away). Mamajek 2 appears to have formed in the same star-forming complex as the NGC 2516 cluster roughly 135 million years ago. [22]

Barnard 68 is a large dark nebula, located 410 light-years from Earth. Despite its diameter of 0.4 light-years, Barnard 68 only has twice the mass of the Sun, making it both very diffuse and very cold, with a temperature of about 16 kelvins. Though it is currently stable, Barnard 68 will eventually collapse, inciting the process of star formation. One unusual feature of Barnard 68 is its vibrations, which have a period of 250,000 years. Astronomers speculate that this phenomenon is caused by the shock wave from a supernova. [20]

The space probe Voyager 1, the furthest man-made object from earth, is traveling in the direction of Ophiuchus. It is located between α Herculis, α and κ Ophiuchi at right ascension 17h 13m and declination +12° 25’ (July 2020). [23]

There is no evidence of the constellation preceding the classical era, and in Babylonian astronomy, a "Sitting Gods" constellation seems to have been located in the general area of Ophiuchus. However, Gavin White proposes that Ophiuchus may in fact be remotely descended from this Babylonian constellation, representing Nirah, a serpent-god who was sometimes depicted with his upper half human but with serpents for legs. [24]

The earliest mention of the constellation is in Aratus, informed by the lost catalogue of Eudoxus of Cnidus (4th century BCE): [25]

To the Phantom's back the Crown is near, but by his head mark near at hand the head of Ophiuchus, and then from it you can trace the starlit Ophiuchus himself: so brightly set beneath his head appear his gleaming shoulders. They would be clear to mark even at the midmonth moon, but his hands are not at all so bright for faint runs the gleam of stars along on this side and on that. Yet they too can be seen, for they are not feeble. Both firmly clutch the Serpent, which encircles the waist of Ophiuchus, but he, steadfast with both his feet well set, tramples a huge monster, even the Scorpion, standing upright on his eye and breast. Now the Serpent is wreathed about his two hands – a little above his right hand, but in many folds high above his left. [26]

To the ancient Greeks, the constellation represented the god Apollo struggling with a huge snake that guarded the Oracle of Delphi. [27]

Later myths identified Ophiuchus with Laocoön, the Trojan priest of Poseidon, who warned his fellow Trojans about the Trojan Horse and was later slain by a pair of sea serpents sent by the gods to punish him. [27] According to Roman era mythography, [28] the figure represents the healer Asclepius, who learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one serpent bringing another healing herbs. To prevent the entire human race from becoming immortal under Asclepius' care, Jupiter killed him with a bolt of lightning, but later placed his image in the heavens to honor his good works. In medieval Islamic astronomy (Azophi's Uranometry, 10th century), the constellation was known as Al-Ḥawwa', "the snake-charmer". [ citation needed ]

Aratus describes Ophiuchus as trampling on Scorpius with his feet. This is depicted in Renaissance to Early Modern star charts, beginning with Albrecht Dürer in 1515 in some depictions (such as that of Johannes Kepler in De Stella Nova, 1606), Scorpius also seems to threaten to sting Serpentarius in the foot. This is consistent with Azophi, who already included ψ Oph and ω Oph as the snake-charmer's "left foot", and θ Oph and ο Oph as his "right foot", making Ophiuchus a zodiacal constellation at least as regards his feet. [29] This arrangement has been taken as symbolic in later literature and placed in relation to the words spoken by God to the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15). [30]

Ophiuchus in a manuscript copy of Azophi's Uranometry, 18th century copy of a manuscript prepared for Ulugh Beg in 1417 (note that as in all pre-modern star charts, the constellation is mirrored, with Serpens Caput on the left and Serpens Cauda on the right).

Ophiuchus holding the serpent, Serpens, as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c. 1825. Above the tail of the serpent is the now-obsolete constellation Taurus Poniatovii while below it is Scutum.

Ophiuchus is one of thirteen constellations that cross the ecliptic. [31] It has therefore been called the "13th sign of the zodiac". However, this confuses sign with constellation. [32] The signs of the zodiac are a twelve-fold division of the ecliptic, so that each sign spans 30° of celestial longitude, approximately the distance the Sun travels in a month, and (in the Western tradition) are aligned with the seasons so that the March equinox always falls on the boundary between Pisces and Aries. [33] [34]

Constellations, on the other hand, are unequal in size and are based on the positions of the stars. The constellations of the zodiac have only a loose association with the signs of the zodiac, and do not in general coincide with them. [35] In Western astrology the constellation of Aquarius, for example, largely corresponds to the sign of Pisces. Similarly, the constellation of Ophiuchus occupies most (29 November – 18 December [36] ) of the sign of Sagittarius (23 November – 21 December). The differences are due to the fact that the time of year that the sun passes through a particular zodiac constellation's position has slowly changed (because of the precession of the equinoxes) over the centuries from when the Babylonians originally developed the Zodiac. [37] [38]