International Star Registry

All Constellations

Draco - Dragon

Represented by the head of a monster under Hercules’ foot. A coil reaches down to the girdle of Cepheus, then loops below Hercules to form a second coil passing down again between the heads of the Lesser and Greater Bears.

The windings of this elusive constellation are symbolic of the oblique course of the stars. Draco winds around the pole of the world, as if to indicate in the symbolic language of Egyptian astronomy the motion of the pole of the equator around the pole of the ecliptic. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the heavens was a serpent whose scales denoted the stars. When astronomy first began to be cultivated in Chaldea, Draco was the polar constellation.

Mythologists sometimes represent Draco as the watchful dragon which guarded the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides near Mount Atlas in Africa. The apples belonged to Juno and were the twelfth labor of Hercules. Juno took Draco up to heaven and made a constellation of him as a reward for his faithful services.

Others say that in the war with the giants, this dragon fought Minerva, who grabbed the snake and hurled its twisted body into the heavens around the axis of the world before it had time to unwind. It sleeps there to this day as Draco.

Another ancient version of Draco says that this is the dragon which Cadmus, brother of Europa, killed when Cadmus was ordered by his father to go find his sister after Jupiter had carried her away; he was told not to come back without Europa. When his search proved fruitless, he consulted the oracle of Apollo who told him to build a city where he saw a heifer stop in the grass. He was to call the city Thebes.

In good time Cadmus saw the heifer. Wishing to thank the god with a sacrifice, he sent his companions to fetch water from a neighboring grove. As luck would have it, the waters were sacred to Mars and were guarded by a fierce dragon who decided on the spot to have dinner.

When his companions didn’t come back, Cadmus grew tired of waiting and went to look for them just as the dragon was licking his chops over the last of the bones. Cadmus swore either to get revenge or to die trying. He attacked the monster and, with the help of Minerva, killed him. Then he plucked out the dragon’s teeth and sowed them in a plain as Athena had told him to do. Suddenly, the teeth sprang up and became armed men, startling our hero. Just as Cadmus was about to beat a hasty retreat, the men started fighting among themselves. All but five were killed. Those remaining five helped Cadmus build the promised city.
Right Ascension 05:15
Diameter (°)30
Area (square °)1083
Opposition Jun 10
Size Rank 8th
Brightness Rank 25th