The Hercules constellation is one of the original 48 constellations listed by the astronomer Ptolemy during the 2nd century.
This article will take a look at the facts, myths, location, and stars of the Hercules constellation.
Hercules Constellation Facts, Myths, Location, and Stars
Hercules Constellation Location and Identification
The Hercules constellation is located in the Northern hemisphere, at a latitude of 90 degrees and -50 degrees.
It borders the constellations of Draco, Boötes, Corona, Borealis, Serpens, Caput, Ophiuchus, Aquila, and Sagitta.
The easiest way to locate the Hercules constellation is to look for the Keystone asterism.
This is the trapezoid shape in the middle of the constellation. It contains four of the brightest stars in the constellation (Pi, Eta, Zeta, and Epsilon).
This makes the formation easy to identify.
Hercules is also characterized by what look like 2 legs at the bottom of the trapezoid with 2 flailing arms coming out the top.
Where Can It Be Seen From
The Hercules constellation can best be seen from the Northern hemisphere.
The only place it cannot be seen at all is Antarctica. This is due to the constant glare from the sun during Hercules’ peak times of visibility.
The best time of year to see it is between March and September during early evening in the Northern hemisphere.
It can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere from June to September. Hey Hercules is at the height of its visibility during the month of June at midnight.
This constellation takes up 3% of the sky and has 1,225 square degrees.
It is best to try and locate it in darker areas. For instance, don’t try to find it within a big city.
Hercules Constellation Myths
The Hercules constellation is named after the Greek hero Heracles (the Romans called him Hercules).
According to the myth, the constellation came to be after Hercules completed his 12 labors. He had to do these tasks as punishment for killing his family.
Even though he committed the crime while under the spell of the evil Hera. Upon their completion, he married Deianeira.
She soon became jealous, believing that he was involved with other women. She gave him a shirt laced with poison. It began burning his flesh.
He built a funeral pyre and killed his mortal self. His immortal self went to Mt. Olympus.
When his father, the God Zeus, saw this, he placed him in the sky to be seen forever.
Hercules Constellation Stars
The Hercules constellation has only 2 stars that are brighter than a 3 in magnitude (the magnitude scale goes from 1 being the brightest to 5+ being the dimmest.
There are a total of 22 stars in this constellation.
Many are too dim to see even with a backyard telescope. The main stars in Hercules are:
• Kornephoros (Beta Herculis)
– This is the brightest star in the constellation. It is 139 lightyears from Earth. It has a magnitude of 2.81. It’s a two-star system. The larger object in the system is gigantic and yellow. It is 175 times brighter than the sun.
• Rutilicus (Zeta Herculis)
– The 2nd brightest star in the constellation. It’s 34 light years from Earth and has a magnitude of 2.9.
• Rasalgethi (Alpha Herculis)
– This is a triple star system. It is 359 lightyears from Earth and has a magnitude of 4.
• Sarin (Delta Herculis)
– 78 lightyears from Earth. Blue-white in color. It has a magnitude of 3.1
• Gamma Herculis
– Called the White Giant. It is 195 lightyears from Earth. It has a magnitude of 3.8
• Pi Herculis
– Part of the Keystone alteration that allows Hercules to easily be seen. It is 377 lightyears from Earth and has a magnitude of 3.1.
• Mu Herculis
– It is 271 lightyears from Earth and has a magnitude of 3.4. The mass of this star is 1.1 times that of the sun.
• Sophian (Eta Herculis)
– 112 lightyears from Earth. It has a magnitude of 3.4 and a mass 2.3 times that of the sun. This star is about a billion years old.
• Iota Herculis
– 455 lightyears from Earth. Has a 3.7 magnitude. It is 2500 times brighter than the sun. Marks the foot of Hercules.
• Epsilon Herculis
– The faintest of the 4 Keystone stars. It is 155 lightyears from Earth and has a 3.9 magnitude.
The Hercules constellation is associated with the Tau Herculids meteor shower. It can be seen from May 19th to June 9th each year. The showers reach their peak on June 9th where 4 per hour can be seen.
One of the huge attractions of the Hercules Constellation is its 2 Messier objects. These are non-comet deep sky objects listed by French astronomer Charles Messier.
The objects in Hercules are called Gobular clusters. These are huge collections of tightly packed stars.
They can contain up to 10 million stars and are the oldest in a galaxy. The Gobular clusters of Hercules are:
– Called one of the best in the Northern hemisphere. It lies in the Keystone area and is about 25,000 lightyears from Earth. It can be seen with the naked eye but will appear fuzzy.
– Not as spectacular as M13 but still great. It is 26,000 lightyears from Earth. The cluster is in the shape of a triangle. This Gobular cluster is best seen with binoculars or a telescope.
What Is Hercules Constellation Used For?
The Hercules constellation can be used by both amateur and professional astronomers to help find the location of other objects in the night sky.
They will use a constellation to map out where other objects are in relation to their position.
Many years ago, constellations were used to form calendars and keep track of the seasons.
This was important for farmers so they knew when to plant crops.
Ship captains also used the constellations to navigate the sea so they could stay on course.
The Hercules constellation is the “strongman” of the constellations.
Not only because of who it’s named after, but for its longevity and size as well.
So the next time you feel like stargazing, watch out for the strongman.