The constellation Hercules is up in the east after sunset, recognizable by the Keystone asterism that forms the legendary strongman’s body. He is usually pictured kneeling upside down in the sky, having a tête-à-tête with Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, with his foot placed triumphantly on the head of Draco the Dragon. The Keystone is situated two-thirds of the way from Arcturus to Vega.
Hercules (Heracles in Greek mythology) was the result of one of Zeus’s many affairs with a mortal woman. Consequently, Hera (wife of Zeus) did whatever she could to have Hercules killed. As a baby Hercules strangled two snakes sent by her, and the Twelve Labours he performed were assigned by King Eurystheus, a representative of Hera.
Two globular clusters, M13 and M92, can be seen with binoculars in the constellation. M13, the finest globular cluster in the northern hemisphere, is along the right side of the Keystone, two-thirds of the way from bottom to top. A line from the bottom right star of the Keystone to the middle of the top side, and extended not quite that same distance, will put you near M92.
This Week in the Solar System
Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 5:52 am and sunset will occur at 8:39 pm, giving 14 hours, 47 minutes of daylight (5:59 am and 8:42 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 5:43 am and set at 8:48 pm, giving 15 hours, 5 minutes of daylight (5:51 am and 8:50 pm in Saint John).
The Moon is at first quarter on Astronomy Day, May 11, and it is full on the following Saturday. Jupiter rises before 11 pm midweek, followed by Saturn two hours later, and both are well placed for early morning observing. Mars sets about an hour after Jupiter rises. Mercury is too close to the Sun for morning observing, while Venus rises 50 minutes before sunrise.
On Friday evening, May 10, public observing events are scheduled at Dutch Point Park in Hampton (8-11, with a cloud date of May 11) and at Moncton High School (9:30-11). The William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets at the UNB Fredericton Forestry-Earth Sciences building on Tuesday at 7 pm, and RASC NB meets in the same location on May 18 at 1 pm. All are welcome.
Questions? Contact Curt Nason at email@example.com.