HYDRA, the Water Snake, resembles the creature from which its name derives, with it huge body slithering across 100 degrees, and covering 3.158% of the night sky, making it the largest of the 88 recognized constellations. Despite its grand status amongst the constellations, and taking almost seven hours to rise fully, Hydra boasts few prominent features, and has just one star of second-magnitude, Alphard, an orange giant representing the heart of the snake.
The constellation of Hydra is associated with the mythological creature that Heracles was tasked with slaying to complete the second of his labors. The giant nine-headed snake lived in the swamp near Lake Lerna, and proved a formidable challenge for the Greek hero, as once one of its heads was cut off, another two would grow in its place. The goddess Hera also added to Heracles’ already difficult task by sending a giant crab, now represented by the constellation Cancer, to attack him while he battled the creature.
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