We are rapidly moving through the alphabet with this year’s A-Z Challenge. In my blog, we’re looking at heavenly bodies (those in the sky, not on the pages of certain magazines). Today, we’re at the letter H. There are a handful of constellations that begin with H: Horologium, Hydra and, of course our choice for today, Hercules.
Hercules was superman before superman. He’s one of the largest constellations in the sky. If Orion is the bad dude of the winter sky, Hercules is the tough man that hangs upside down in the summer sky. Sadly, Hercules does not have the bright stars of Orion, but if you can pick out a few constellations in the summer sky, Hercules isn’t hard to find. It’s just to the east of Cygnus the Swan and Lyra with its bright star, Vega. To the east of Hercules is the soup bowl of the summer sky (that’s my description), Corona Borealis. The Big Dipper and Draco is to the north of Hercules.
According to legend, Hercules father was Jupiter and his mother the beautiful Alcmene, wife of Amphytrion, a military leader of Thebes. Jupiter spotted Alcmene and seduced her. She gave birth to Hercules, who as an infant had amazing strength. Jupiter’s wife, Juno, decided to do away with this latest consequence to her husband’s unfaithfulness and sent snakes to kill the infant. Hercules, still in diapers, rung the necks of the snakes. As a man, he met two women, Pleasure and Virtue. Pleasure offered him a fun life, while Virtue offered a difficult life, but one he would ultimately claim glory. Choosing the latter, Hercules found he had to atone for some of his misdeeds and was placed under the control of King Eurystheus, who told Hercules he’d have to accomplish twelve feats before he could be free. Each feat was harder, but Hercules prevailed and now he reigns in the summer sky.