The name Hercules sufficiently indicates the mythological origin of the constellation, and yet the Greeks did not know it by that name, for Aratus calls it "the Phantom whose name none can tell." The Northern Crown, according to fable, was the celebrated crown of Ariadne, and Lyra was the harp of Orpheus himself.
With the aid of the map you will be able to recognize the principal stars and star-groups in Hercules, and will find many interesting combinations of stars for yourself. An object of special interest is the celebrated star-cluster 13 M. You will find it on the map between the stars Eta (η) and Zeta (ζ). While an opera-glass will only show it as a faint and minute speck, lying nearly between two little stars, it is nevertheless well worth looking for, on account of the great renown of this wonderful congregation of stars. Sir William Herschel computed the number of stars contained in it as about fourteen thousand. It is roughly spherical in shape, though there are many straggling stars around it evidently connected with the cluster. In short, it is a ball of suns. The reader should not mistake what that implies, however. These suns, though truly solar bodies, are probably very much smaller than our sun. Mr. Gore has recently computed their average diameter to be about forty-five thousand miles, and the distance separating one from another to be 9,000,000,000 miles. Adopting Mr. Gore's estimates of their size and distance, I have recently shown, in a newspaper article, that, as seen from the center of the cluster, the nearest stars would shine about fourteen hundred times as bright as Sirius, while even the farthest stars in the cluster would be much brighter than Sirius, so that a world situated there would enjoy a sort of perpetual daylight, the illumination of its nocturnal sky being, perhaps, as much as fifteen times greater than the light shed from the full moon upon the earth.
If you have a field-glass, by all means try it upon 13 M. It will give you a more satisfactory view than an opera-glass is capable of doing, and will magnify the cluster so that there can be no possibility of mistaking it for a star. Compare this compact cluster, which only a powerful telescope can partially resolve into its component stars, with 7 M. and 24 M., described above, in order to comprehend the wide variety in the structure of these aggregations of stars.
The Northern Crown, although a strikingly beautiful constellation to the naked eye, offers few attractions to the opera-glass. Let us turn, then, to Lyra. I have never been able to make up my mind which of three great stars is entitled to precedence—Vega, the leading brilliant of Lyra, Arcturus in Boötes, or Capella in Auriga. They are the three leaders of the northern firmament, but which of them should be called the chief, is very hard to say. At any rate, Vega would probably be generally regarded as the most beautiful, on account of the delicate bluish tinge in its light, especially when viewed with a glass. There is no possibility of mistaking this star on account of