|Hydra has the distinction of being the
longest and largest constellation in the sky. It starts near Cancer
and stretches for 100 degrees across the sky to where it ends near Centaurus
and Libra. Don't confuse this female snake
with Hydrus, the smaller male water snake who is near the south celestial
pole. In Babylonian times it represented the dragon Tiamat, who was
Hydra is said to represent the monster
that Hercules slew as part of his Twelve Tasks.
It had nine heads, one of them immortal, and when ever one was cut off
another two grew in it's place. There is also another story that
associates it with the nearby constellations of Corvus
the Crow and Crater the Cup. Corvus was
sent by Apollo to fetch a drink from a stream in the cup, but on the way
back Corvus was distracted by some unripe figs. Corvus dallied by
the fig tree while the fruit ripened, but it took longer than he realised,
so brought back the snake in his claws as an excuse for his delay.
Apollo was angered at this and banished the crow to the sky with the cup
Alphard, alpha (a)
Hydrae, means "the Solitary one" and if one looks at it's location in the
sky it's not hard to see why it got it's name - there is no other brighter
star near it and it looks a bit lonely, hanging around by itself.
This article is ©2002