Hercules Constellation: Facts & Myths

It is very true that the sky hides its secrets. The night sky particularly is something that has always fascinated the romantics as well as astronomers equally. Stars are an elemental part of the sky that has been part of the popular culture and literature from time to time. Another reason why stars always attract the attention is because of the peculiar features that they exhibit during different periods of time.

A prominent phenomenon displayed by the stars is the grouping of some of the bright stars in the sky to form different patterns, the shape of which resembles with the shape of animals, humans, mythological figures, etc. Such a cluster of stars is called a constellation which has time and again, tempted astronomers and scientists.

Hercules, one of the largest stars in the sky is one such fascinating constellation. Known after the Roman mythological figure Hercules, the constellation can be seen in both the hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere Hercules is visible from April to September while in the southern hemisphere, it is visible from June to September. The second-century astronomer Ptolemy discovered the constellation, and there are certain theories which establish a relationship between Hercules and early Babylonian observations.

Hercules Myth

The constellation is named after Hercules, the son of Zeus and the symbol of help and courage. There are various versions of mythological stories attached to the constellation. According to the most popular one, Hercules had to live a life of hardships under the influence of a bad omen. Upon his death, which was equally painful, his father Zeus honored his son by giving him a place among the stars and thus the constellation was formed and named after him.

Stars in the Hercules constellation

Although the constellation does not constitute any bright stars, yet there are some important stars that are discussed as follows-

  • Asterism- Also known by the name Keystone asterism, the star is formed by the unison of four bright stars in the constellation which are Pi, Zeta, Epsilon, and All of these stars together form the torso of Hercules.
  • Beta Hercules- The brightest star of the constellation also known by the name kornephores is approximately 139 light years away from earth. An astonishing feature of the star is that it is a binary star and not a single star and takes 410 days to orbit.
  • Zeta Hercules- This forms the second brightest star of the constellation and is a multiple star system that is around 35 light years distant from our solar system. The star is a part of moving group of zeta Hercules stars which includes star from other constellations too.
  • Delta Hercules- The third brightest star of the constellation is also known by the name Sarin. It is again a multiple star system which is around 75 light years away from our earth. The primary star is a white sub-giant which has about twice the radius and mass of the Sun.

Thus, the constellation Hercules has always been a source of fascination for most of the astronomers and the process of discovery continues.