Hercules (Pronounciation:Her-q-leas, Abbrev:Her, Latin:Herculis) is a constellation, one of 88 constellations that the night sky is divided into. The sky is not divided up equally between the constellations. Hercules takes up 1225.148 sq. degrees of the night sky which equates to 2.97% of the night sky. Hercules is the 5th largest in terms of size in the night sky.
The constellation name means The Warrior . The constellation is one of the original constellations that was devised by the Ancient Greco-Egyptian astronomer Ptolemy who lived between 90 A.D. and 168 A.D.
There are 15 stars that make up the main constellation. The hipparcos satellite scanned and detailed 3381 stars. There are 135 stars that can be seen with the naked eye in the constellation on a very clear night sky.
Hercules is not a member of the Zodiac group of twelve constellations that appear when the Sun sets. Hercules is a northern hemispheric constellation which means it can't be seen easily or at all from the southern hemisphere.
The distance to Hercules is not calculable because all the stars that make up the constellation are at various distances. The best answer for distance to Hercules is to calculate the average distance of the stars.
There are 29 Extrasolar Planets (Exoplanets) in this constellation that are detailed on this site. There is a dedicated page for exoplanets in Hercules. The current largest star so far identified in the constellation of Hercules is Rasalgethi.
There are 2 deep space objects that were identified by Charles Messier in this constellation. There are 1 non-Messier deep space objects that are covered on this site and the list is below.
The image at the top right of this page was generated using Night Vision, a free to use and download application by Brian Simspon.
The caveat of these stars are that they are catalogued on this site. If you know of a star that is nearer or further then do let me know in the comments and I'll add it to the site. The stars mentioned are from the Hipparcos catalogue or have been added because of their special status.
The nearest star to Earth is HIP 84140 which is roughly about 19.5 Light Years from the Earth. The nearest star to the Earth with an exoplanet is 14 Herculis which is about 57.31 Light Years.
The furthest star that is located in the constellation is SY Herculis and it is 163081.7 light years away from the Sun. The furthest figure is derived from either the 1997 or 2007 Hipparcos star catalogue parallax figure and it has been known to produce distances that are wrong.
The dimmest star that can be seen in Hercules with the naked eye is HIP 86431. The dim star has an apparent magnitude of 8.39. The dimmest star that a person is able to see with their naked eye is 6.0 magnitude based on the table in the reference. Ref: University of Michigan.
Although Kornephoros is the brightest star in the constellation, it wasn't recognised as such when the Bayer classifications were given out. Alpha Herculis was given to another star, Ras Algethi. Kornephoros is a double star and this can be made out in a good night without a good telescope or binoculars. The star system is clearly visible with the naked eye though.
Hercules (Roman) or Heracles (Greek) was the son of Zeus, Hercules is more closely associated with Greek mythology than Roman. The television series Hercules starring Kevin Sorbo uses the Greek Gods but Roman spelling. Hercules was born to a mortal woman Alcmene and the god Zeus. The birth of Hercules enraged Hera, Zeus' wife who plotted to kill the young child. Hera plans included killing with a snake but it failed.
Hercules managed many feats including defeating the Manyans to rescue Thebes. He was awarded the hand of Megara, the Princess of Thebes. After his three sons were born, Hera extracted revenge on Hercules. In a fit of rage, Hercules killed his wife and three sons. Hercules was arrested and became a slave to Eurystheus, King of Mycenae. Eurystheus was also Hercules' brother. Eurystheus had been created after Hercules but born first so that he could be King and not Hercules. Eurystheus relied on Hera to devise a number of labours to punish Hercules.
Hercules had to slay the Nemean Lion which was terrorising the area near Nemea. The skin was so thick that weapons were unable to penetrate it. After using an array of weapons, he tackled the lion to the ground and either strangled it or choked it. Skinning the creature was impossible until Athena gave him the tools to do it. The lion became the constellation Leo.
Hydra was a multi-headed sea-creature that lived in a lake near Lerna in the Argoid. Beneath the waters was reputed to be the entrance to the underworld which Hydra guarded. The creature was known for its poisonous gases which Hercules was well aware of. He fired arrows into the water to draw the creature out. He fought with a harvesting sickle, however it soon turned out to be useless. Whenever he chopped off one of the heads, two grew back to replace the lost head. He turned to his Iolaus for help in defeating the creature. They came up with the plan to burn the neck of the last severed head to stop it from growing back. This worked, Hercules would chop off the head and Iolaus would burn the neck. In some stories, Hera's crab made life hard for Hercules during the fight. The crab is immortalised in the stars as Cancer.
The Hind, a deer was so fast it could outrun an arrow. Eurystheus ordered that Hercules bring back the antlers. The chase lasted many months as he followed the Hind through Greece, Thrace, Istria and the land of the Hyperboreans. He is reputed to have caught the creature as it rested. Once he had captured the Hind, Artemis and Apollo turned up. He explained the situation to them and was allowed to take the Hind with him back to the King. Once he arrived at the Kings Palace, the Hind was released and escaped.
On Mount Erymanthos was a Boar that was sacred to the Mistress of the Animals also known as Potnia Theron. It was used when the Goddess was in anger, it would be sent down the hillside to destroy a farmers crop. On the way to capture it, he visited Pholus, a Centaur and a friend. When they dined, he opened a wine bottle which attracted other Centaurs. In the melee that followed, Hercules managed to drive them back using poisonous arrows he had with him. Pholus was stabbed in the foot after dropping one of the arrows he had picked up. Pholus is believed to be immortalised as the constellation Centaurus . Chiron, was hit by a stray arrow and although immortal, felt great pain. He gave up his immortality for Prometheus, who was being tortured by an Eagle in Tartarus, a part of the Underworld. Hercules killed the Eagle with a bow and arrow. Chiron advised Hercules on how best to capture the Boar. The plan was to drive the creature into snow thus rendering it unable to move. Hercules picked up the boar and carried it back.
This task was to demean Hercules. It was to clean out the stables of Augeas, the King of Elis and Husband to Epicaste. The stables housed the greatest number of cattle in the country and had never been cleaned. The cattle were immune to infection. The King promised to give Hercules 10% of his stock if it was completed in a day. Hercules did this by re-routing Alpheus and Peneus into the stables. Augeas couldn't believe it when he did this in such a short time then he reneges on his deal. Hercules took revenge and killed the King.
Around the lake of Lake Stymphalus were birds with claws of brass and sharp metallic feathers. Their dung was highly toxic. They would lay siege to any area that they arrived at. Hercules aided with tools from Athena and Hephaestus frightened them into the sky then shot at them with arrows. The constellation Sagitta is associated with one of the arrows that Hercules used to kill one of the birds. The birds maybe represented by the constellation Lyra.
The Bull lived on the Island of Crete and was terrorising the people. After seeking permission from King Minos, he went out and captured the bull by lassoing it. He rode the bull back to Eurystheus. Eurystheus was going to sacrifice the bull but Hera declined fearing it would increase the glory reflected upon Hercules. The bull is immortalised by the constellation Taurus.
On the shores of the Black Sea were four man-eating wild horses. They belonged to Diomedes, King of Thrace, son to Ares and Cyrene. Hercules called on the help of Abderus and other male friends to capture the creatures. They chased them into the sea which made their capture all the easier. Diomedes fought with Hercules over what he was doing because he didn't want to lose his horses. Whilst this was going on, Abderus was killed by one of the horses. Angered by what had happened to Abderus, he captured Diomedes and fed him to the horses. He managed to tie up the mouths of the horses and took them to Eurystheus. The horses were dedicated to Hera. What happened to the horses after that is contentious. Some say Hera took them to Argos, other says Zeus sent wild animals to kill them. Alexander the Great's horse Bucephalus is said to be a descendent of theirs.
Hippolyte was an Amazonian Queen who was the daughter of Ares. Some say that Hippolyte just gave the girdle to Hercules because she fell in love with him. The other main story revolves around him kidnapping Melanippe and demanding the girdle in ransom. It works and he gets the girdle. Theseus, one of Hercules companions kidnaps Antiope, another sister of Hipployte. The Amazons attack Athens but the plucky adventurers escape with both the girdle and Antiople.
He got Helios, the Sun to help him cross the desert of Libya. Libya at the same was the generic term for the whole of Africa. On reaching Erythesia, he was confronted by Orthrus, a two headed dog which he despatched with at ease. Geryon, on herding what had happened, chased Hercules at river Anthemus. Hercules killed him with a poisonous arrow made from the blood of Hydra. He had to herd the animals back to Eurystheus but during the journey, some were stolen by Cacus. Along the journey, Hercules came across the stolen Cows and killed Cacus in the process of rescuing them. Hera sent a gadfly to scatter the cows and make Hercules job nigh impossible. She then caused a flood to occur to separate the cows. This did not put Hercules off. He used stones to cross the river and round up the cows. During the crossing, he had to kill a half-woman, half-serpent creature. Once he made it back to Eurystheus, the cows were sacrificed.
A tree or a collection of trees in the far west of the world that grew golden apples. The tree came from Gaia as a wedding present to Hera and Zeus. Originally, Eurystheus set only ten tasks but because Hercules had had help, the number of labours were increased to twelve. Hercules first caught Nereus, a shape-shifting sea god to find the location of the apples. Some other legends have him Nereus not being able to tell him where the gardens are. As such, he sort help from Prometheus which had been saved from torture. Once he had found the location, he had to deal with Ladon, a massive multi-headed dragon that guarded the garden. He killed the dragon by throwing a spear at it. The dragon became immortalised as the constellation Draco . Hercules got Atlas to retrieve the apples whilst he held up the skies for him. The apples were later returned to the garden by Athena.
Cerberus was a two-headed dog with a snake for a tail and snake heads all over his body. The creature guarded the entrance to Hades, the land of the dead. He had to get in and out so called upon Eleusis to be initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries. This also enabled him to absolve himself of killing the Centaurs. Helped by Artemis and Hermes, he managed to transverse the entrance in each direction at Tanaerum. Whilst in the underworld, he freed Theseus but could not free Pirithous. They had been sent to Hades in revenge for the kidnap of Persephone. As to how Hercules captured, there are different stories. One says he shot Hades and walked out with it, another he persuaded Hades and the third is that he treated the dog with kindness.
There are 12 Meteor Showers that occur during the year within this constellation based on information gathered from Adam Mickiewicz University (Poland). The list below are major ones and which I have a date period for.
|Name||Activity||Peak Activity||Closest Star|
|Beta Herculids||February 13-16||February 14|
|Tau Herculids||2nd June|
|July Rho Herculids||29th July|
The following list contains the stars that make up the constellation. For a larger list of stars in the entire constellation area, please visit the For a list of named stars, that is stars that don't start HD or HIP, please visit Hercules Star List page.
|Name||Bayer||Distance (Lt.Yr.)||Right Ascension||Declination||Spectral Type||Colour|
|Kornephoros||Beta Herculis||139.15||16h 30m 13.26||+21d 29` 22.7||G8III||Yellow|
|Sarin||Delta Herculis||75.14||17h 15m 01.92||+24d 50` 22.5||A3IVv SB||White|
|Epsilon Herculis||Epsilon Herculis||155.02||17h 00m 17.41||+30d 55` 34.8||A0V||White|
|Rutilicus||Zeta Herculis||34.95||16h 41m 17.48||+31d 36` 06.8||F9IV||Yellow/White|
|Sophian||Eta Herculis||108.65||16h 42m 53.74||+38d 55` 20.9||G8III-IV||Yellow|
|Rukbalgethi Genubi||Theta Herculis||753.26||17h 56m 15.18||+37d 15` 01.9||K1IIvar||Orange|
|Maasym||Lambda Herculis||369.38||17h 30m 44.30||+26d 06` 38.2||K3IIIvar||Orange|
|Mu Herculis||Mu Herculis||27.11||17h 46m 27.72||+27d 43` 21.0||G5IV||Yellow|
|Xi Herculis||Xi Herculis||136.81||17h 57m 45.83||+29d 14` 52.5||K0III||Orange|
|Pi Herculis||Pi Herculis||376.63||17h 15m 02.85||+36d 48` 33.0||K3IIvar||Orange|
|Rho Herculis||Rho Herculis||393.44||17h 23m 40.97||+37d 08` 45.3||B9.5III||Blue/White|
|Sigma Herculis||Sigma Herculis||314.83||16h 34m 06.19||+42d 26` 12.8||B9Vvar||Blue/White|
|Rukbalgethi Shemali||Tau Herculis||307.41||16h 19m 44.45||+46d 18` 47.8||B5IV||Blue/White|
|Upsilon Herculis||Upsilon Herculis||371.48||16h 02m 47.85||+46d 02` 12.7||B9III||Blue/White|
|Phi Herculis||Phi Herculis||203.98||16h 08m 46.20||+44d 56` 05.3||B9MNp...||Blue/White|
|Is a Zodiac Sign||No|
|Area||1225.148 sq. deg.|
|Percentage of Night Sky||2.97%|
|Site Exoplanet Count||29|
|Meteor Shower Count||12|
|Nearest Star||HIP 84140|
|Nearest Star with Exoplanet(s)||14 Herculis|
|Dimmest Star||HIP 86431|
|Furthest Star||SY Herculis|
|Bright Star Count||135|
|Hipparcos Star Count||3381|
|Main Star Count||15|
|Messier Deep Space Object Count||2|
|*Non-Messier Deep Space Object Count||1|
*Note: The number of Non-Messier Deep Space Object Count relates to how many are covered on this site not how many there are.
|A2261-BCG - Abelle 2261 Brightest Cluster Galaxy||Galaxy||3 Billion||+32d 07` 57.18||17h 22m 27m 173|
|Messier 92 (NGC6341)||Globular Cluster||26700||+43:08||17h 17m 1|
|NGC 6050||Interacting Spiral Galaxy||500 Million||17:44||16h 05|
|The Great Hercules Globular Cluster (M13, NGC6205)||Globular Cluster||22200||+36:28||16h 41m 7|
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