Hercules and our Planets


The new moon is on July 10, so this is a great time for sky viewing. The only problem is that the days are still long, so you either must stay up late or get up early. You can always just get up during the night when you wake up. There are a few things that do happen when the sky is still relatively light.

Tonight 45 minutes after the Sun sets, you can look in the west to see a very thin moon with Mars and Venus. You need to look low in the west to see the two planets side by side. You may also be able to see the thin moon just to the right of them.

On July 11 look low in the west-south-west to see the three together. Mars is getting very dim since Venus is much brighter and just to the right of it. Then on the next night the moon exits the scene and Venus closes in on Mars.

Hercules is a large but relatively faint constellation. It's currently high overhead in the northern sky between the bright star Arcturus in Bootes, and the bright star Vega in Lyra. It's the fifth-largest constellation in our sky and represents the Greek God Hercules who is standing upside down if you face south. If you face east, he appears to be lying on his side.

It has 20 stars and is 3 hands tall and wide. He carries a club in one hand and the head of the watchdog Cerberus in the other. He's also kneeling with one foot on the head of Draco the Dragon, and he's also called the Kneeler. What's interesting is that his body is four stars making a nice square and it's the Keystone Asterism which is easy to find.

If you find his four-star body, you may also find M-13 the Hercules cluster, which is in the path of his four-star body. It has about 300,000 stars that stretch almost 170 light years across our galaxy. But since its 2,500 LY away, it's not easy to see. You can always try binoculars or a telescope. Globular clusters are interesting to observe.

This is great to view in June, July and August. So, when you get a chance, look up in the sky to see if you can find it.