Deep Space Review: Hydra the “Water Snake”

As I did in my last Deep Space Review, I approached a constellation resembling a Lizard – Lacerta. If you recall, Lacerta is the smallest constellation in the Northern hemisphere. In this article I would like to dive into the biggest constellation of the the modern 88 – Hydra.

The Water Snake

Hydra, the “Water Snake” constellation is an unusually long constellation that spans 1303 sq. deg. in the southern hemisphere’s night sky. Reaching from -20° declination to 8-15h in right ascension, you can almost invision a snake that is laying in the hot sun basking. Ironically enough, Hydra only has one reasonably bright star – Alphard. Alphard, meaning “the solitary one” guides the viewer to the other 13 main stars in this constellation. All 13 stars also are self contained with their own surrounding planets. Alphard sits at a major 1.98 magnitude star. Excitingly, Hydra has 3 major Messier Objects: M83- A southern Pinwheel Galaxy, M68- A globular cluster, and M48- An open star cluster. These three Messier Objects give the White Snake some flair undoubtedly.  Hydra, or “Hya”(its abbreviation) was also included in the 2nd Century original 48 constellations by Ptoleny, the astronomer. If you happen to catch Hydra in your night sky, you will find it in the SQ2 Quadrant along with the constellations: Cancer, and Virgo.


  Vermilion Bird: Hydra is referred to as the “Vermilion Bird” in Chinese Philosophy.

Acure Dragon: Hydra is given a second name by Chinese philosophers.

Nuriko: Is the name given to Hydra by Japanese Philosophy text books.


Hydrus: Sometimes the constellation Hydra is mistaken for Hydrus another, yet smaller, constellation.


What I find particularly interesting in Hydra is that it is referred to as another reptile! I’m really fond of how reptiles work, physically and environmentally. If you do a cross examination between the two constellations; the Smallest being Lacerta, and the largest, being Hydra. You see that they seem to carry with them a reach of symbolism as they were named with their reptilian nicknames. Hydra in particular seems to have a snake-like form to it. In where Lacerta definitely has a more lizard-like persona. Ultimately, these two constellations may be light years apart and drastically different in size, but they both hold the same truths in regards to how reptiles can influence not just us here on Earth, but even in the stars.

By: Thomas McGregor


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