Crater (constellation)

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Abbreviation Crt
Genitive Crateris
Pronunciation /ˈkrtər/,
genitive /krəˈtrs/
Symbolism the cup
Right ascension 11
Declination −16
Family Hercules
Quadrant SQ2
Area 282 sq. deg. (53rd)
Main stars 4
Stars with planets 7
Stars brighter than 3.00m 0
Stars within 10.00 pc (32.62 ly) 0
Brightest star δ Crt (Labrum) (3.57m)
Nearest star LHS 2358
(34.86 ly, 10.69 pc)
Messier objects 0
Meteor showers Eta Craterids
Visible at latitudes between +65° and −90°.
Best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of April.

Crater is a small constellation in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere. Its name means "cup" in Latin. One of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy, it depicts a cup that has been associated with the god Apollo and is perched on the back of Hydra the water snake.

There is no star brighter than third magnitude. Its two brightest stars, Delta Crateris of magnitude 3.56 and Alpha Crateris of magnitude 4.07, are ageing orange giant stars that are cooler and larger than the Sun.


Corvus, Crater and other constellations seen around Hydra. From Urania's Mirror (1825)

In the Babylonian star catalogues dating from at least 1100 BCE, the stars of Crater were possibly incorporated with those of the crow Corvus in the Babylonian Raven (MUL.UGA.MUSHEN). John H. Rogers observed that the adjoining constellation Hydra signified Ningishzida, the god of the underworld in the Babylonian compendium MUL.APIN. He proposed that Corvus and Crater (along with the water snake Hydra) were death symbols and marked the gate to the underworld.[1] These two constellations, along with the eagle Aquila and the fish Piscis Austrinus, were introduced to the Greeks around 500 BCE; they marked the winter and summer solstices respectively. Furthermore, Hydra had been a landmark as it had straddled the celestial equator in antiquity.[2] Corvus and Crater also featured in the iconography of Mithraism, which is thought to have been of middle-eastern origin before spreading into Ancient Greece and Rome.[3]

Crater is identified with a story from Greek mythology in which a crow or raven serves Apollo, and is sent to fetch water, but it rests lazily on the journey, and after finally obtaining the water in a cup, takes back a water snake as an excuse. According to the myth, Apollo saw through the fraud, and angrily cast the crow, cup, and snake, into the sky.[4]

In other cultures[edit]

In Chinese astronomy, the stars of Crater are located within the constellation of the Vermillion Bird of the South (南方朱雀, Nán Fāng Zhū Què).[5] They depict, along with some stars from Hydra, Yi, the Red Bird's wings. Yi also denotes the 27th lunar mansion. Alternatively, Yi depicts a heroic bowman, his bow composed of other stars in Hydra.[6]

In the Society Islands, Crater was recognized as a constellation called Moana-ohu-noa-ei-haa-moe-hara.[7]


Covering 282.4 square degrees and hence 0.685% of the sky, Crater ranks 53rd of the 88 constellations in area.[8] It is bordered by Leo and Virgo to the north, Corvus to the east, Hydra to the south and west, and Sextans to the northwest. The three-letter abbreviation for the constellation, as adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1922, is 'Crt'.[9] The official constellation boundaries, as set by Eugène Delporte in 1930, are defined by a polygon of six segments (illustrated in infobox). In the equatorial coordinate system, the right ascension coordinates of these borders lie between 10h 51m 14s and 11h 56m 24s, while the declination coordinates are between −6.66° and −25.20°.[10] Its position in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere means that the whole constellation is visible to observers south of 65°N.[8][a]


The constellation Crater as it can be seen by the naked eye.


The German cartographer Johann Bayer used the Greek letters Alpha through Lambda to label the most prominent stars in the constellation. Bode added more, though only Psi Crateris remains in use. John Flamsteed gave 31 stars in Crater and the segment of Hydra immediately below Crater Flamsteed designations, naming the resulting constellation Hydra et Crater. Most of these stars lie in Hydra.[11] Within the constellation's borders, there are 33 stars brighter than or equal to apparent magnitude 6.5.[b][8]

The three brightest stars—Delta, Alpha and Gamma Crateris—from a triangle nearby the brighter star Nu Hydrae in neighbouring Hydra.[13]

Delta Crateris is the brightest star in Crater at magnitude 3.6. 186 ± 2 light-years away.[14] It is an orange giant star of spectral type K0III that is 1.0–1.4 times as massive as the Sun. An ageing star, it has cooled and expanded to 22.44 ± 0.28 times the Sun's radius. It is radiating 171.4 ± 9.0 as much luminosity as the Sun from its outer envelope at an effective temperature of 4,408 ± 57 K.[15] Traditionally called Alkes "the cup", Alpha Crateris is an orange-hued star of magnitude 4.1, 159 ± 2 light-years from Earth.[14] With an estimated mass around 1.61 times that of the Sun, it has exhausted its core hydrogen and expanded to 12 or 13 times the Sun's diameter,[16] shining with 69 times its luminosity.and a surface temperature of 4645 K.[17]

Beta Crateris is a blue-white hued star of magnitude 4.5, 266 light-years from Earth. Gamma Crateris is a double star divisible in small amateur telescopes. The primary is a white star of magnitude 4.1, 84 light-years from Earth. The secondary is of magnitude 9.6.

Located near Alkes is the red-hued R Crateris,[13] a semi-regular variable of type SRb and a spectral classification of M7. It has a magnitude of 9.8-11.2 and an optical period of 160 days.

SZ Crateris is a magnitude 8.1 variable star. It is a nearby star system located about 44 light years from the Sun. It is also identified as Gliese 425, and in the past it was known as Abt's Star.[citation needed]

Deep-sky objects[edit]

The Crater 2 dwarf galaxy is a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

NGC 3511 is a spiral galaxy with a slight bar, seen nearly from the edge, of type SBbc. It is a member of the galaxy cluster Abell 1060. This galaxy is magnitude 12, and is 4' × 1' in size. Right nearby, 30" away, is NGC 3513, another SB-class spiral.

NGC 3887 is a barred-spiral galaxy of type SBc, magnitude 11, with a diameter of 3.5'.

NGC 3981 is a spiral galaxy with two wide spiral arms, of type SBbc. It is magnitude 12 with a diameter of 3'. This galaxy was discovered by William Herschel in 1785.

RX J1131 is a quasar located 6 billion light years away from Earth. The black hole in the center of the quasar was the first black hole whose spin has ever been directly measured.[18]


USS Crater (AK-70) was a United States Navy Crater class cargo ship named after the constellation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ While parts of the constellation technically rise above the horizon to observers between the 65°N and 83°N, stars within a few degrees of the horizon are to all intents and purposes unobservable.[8]
  2. ^ Objects of magnitude 6.5 are among the faintest visible to the unaided eye in suburban-rural transition night skies.[12]


  1. ^ Rogers, John H. (1998). "Origins of the Ancient Constellations: I. The Mesopotamian Traditions". Journal of the British Astronomical Association. 108: 9–28. Bibcode:1998JBAA..108....9R. 
  2. ^ Frank, Roslyn M. (2015). "10: Origins of the "Western" Constellations". Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy. New York, New York: Springer. pp. 147–63. 
  3. ^ Rogers, John H. (1998). "Origins of the Ancient Constellations: II. The Mediterranean traditions". Journal of the British Astronomical Association. 108: 79–89. Bibcode:1998JBAA..108...79R. 
  4. ^ Ridpath & Tirion 2001, p. 128.
  5. ^ (Chinese)AEEA (Activities of Exhibition and Education in Astronomy) 天文教育資訊網 2006 年 5 月 31 日
  6. ^ Ridpath, Ian. "Corvus and Crater". Star Tales. self-published. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  7. ^ Makemson 1941, p. 282.
  8. ^ a b c d Ian Ridpath. "Constellations: Andromeda–Indus". Star Tales. self-published. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Russell, Henry Norris (1922). "The New International Symbols for the Constellations". Popular Astronomy. 30: 469. Bibcode:1922PA.....30..469R. 
  10. ^ "Crater, Constellation Boundary". The Constellations. International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  11. ^ Wagman, Morton (2003). Lost Stars: Lost, Missing and Troublesome Stars from the Catalogues of Johannes Bayer, Nicholas Louis de Lacaille, John Flamsteed, and Sundry Others. Blacksburg, Virginia: The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company. pp. 121–23, 390–92, 506–07. ISBN 978-0-939923-78-6. 
  12. ^ Bortle, John E. (February 2001). "The Bortle Dark-Sky Scale". Sky & Telescope. Sky Publishing Corporation. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Arnold, H.J.P; Doherty, Paul; Moore, Patrick (1999). The Photographic Atlas of the Stars. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-7503-0654-6. 
  14. ^ a b van Leeuwen, F. (2007). "Validation of the New Hipparcos Reduction". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 474 (2): 653–64. arXiv:0708.1752Freely accessible. Bibcode:2007A&A...474..653V. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20078357. 
  15. ^ Berio, P.; Merle, T.; Thévenin, F.; Bonneau, D.; Mourard, D.; Chesneau, O.; Delaa, O.; Ligi, R.; Nardetto, N. (2011). "Chromosphere of K giant stars. Geometrical extent and spatial structure detection". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 535: A59. arXiv:1109.5476Freely accessible. Bibcode:2011A&A...535A..59B. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201117479. 
  16. ^ Reffert S, Bergmann C, Quirrenbach A, Trifonov T, Künstler A (2015). "Precise radial velocities of giant stars. VII. Occurrence rate of giant extrasolar planets as a function of mass and metallicity". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 574: 13. Bibcode:2015A&A...574A.116R. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201322360. A116. 
  17. ^ Luck RE (2015). "Abundances in the Local Region. I. G and K Giants". The Astronomical Journal. 150 (3): 23. Bibcode:2015AJ....150...88L. doi:10.1088/0004-6256/150/3/88. 88. 
  18. ^ Nola Taylor Redd (March 5, 2014). "Monster Black Hole Spins at Half the Speed of Light". Retrieved March 5, 2014. 
  • Makemson, Maud Worcester (1941). The Morning Star Rises: an account of Polynesian astronomy. Yale University Press. 
  • Ridpath, Ian; Tirion, Wil (2001), Stars and Planets Guide, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-08913-2 
  • Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion (2007). Stars and Planets Guide, Collins, London. ISBN 978-0-00-725120-9. Princeton University Press, Princeton. ISBN 978-0-691-13556-4.
  • Richard Hinckley Allen, The Stars, Their Lore and Legend, New York, Dover.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: Sky map 11h 00m 00s, −16° 00′ 00″