In this article, we will share facts, myths, stars, location, and the history of the Cancer Constellation.
It’s great for amateur astronomers, students, or anyone that wants general information about the Cancer Constellation.
Cancer Constellation Facts, Myth, Location and Stars
What is a constellation?
A constellation is a cluster of stars that make up a pattern that can be recognized. It’s named after a recognized form or a mythical figure.
There are 12 constellations in the zodiac family. In addition to Cancer, there are Leo, Gemini, Taurus, Aries, Libra, Virgo, Capricorn, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Pisces, and Aquarius.
Cancer Constellation Myths
According to Greek mythology, Cancer (Latin for crab) formed 1 of 2 ways.
The first one states that Hera, a jealous goddess, sent a giant crab to finish off the hero, Hercules.
It seems Hera put a spell on him that made him kill his family. Hercules was doing his penance for the crime when the crab showed up.
Hercules defeated the crab with his club and kicked it up into the sky.
The second myth states that it was Hera herself who put the crab into the sky for trying to take out Hercules.
Because it failed, she put it in a part of the sky that had no bright stars.
This is why (according to lore), Cancer has the dimmest stars among all the constellations.
Specific Stars in the Constellation
Cancer has 10 named stars within its constellation. They are:
• Acubens (is 23 times more luminescent than the sun)
• Asellus Australis ( biggest and 2nd brightest star in the constellation. Has an orange hue)
• Asellus Borealis (also called the Northern Donkey. 5th brightest in the constellation)
• Copernicus (white in color and can be seen with the naked eye)
• Gakyid (yellow in color and cannot be seen with the naked eye)
• Meleph ( bluish white and can be seen with the naked eye)
• Nahn ( orange colored and can be seen with a telescope) and
• Piautos ( blue in color and is only visible from the night sky)
• Tarf ( the brightest star in the constellation)
• Tegmine ( means shell of the crab and is the dimmest of all the stars)
Where Can the Cancer Constellation be Seen From?
Keep in mind that this constellation has the dimmest of stars of all 12 constellations.
This makes it almost impossible for us to see it with our naked eye or even with binoculars or a low level microscope.
However, it is possible to view from the Northern hemisphere (anywhere above the equator), during early spring (ideally March at 9 pm).
It’s also possible to view it from the Southern Hemisphere (anywhere below the equator), during the fall.
How Can an Amateur Astronomer Identify It?
At the rare times the constellation can be viewed, it’s pretty easy to identify. It’s in the shape of an upside down Y.
People have also said it looks like a stick figure without arms or a head.
Since the stars are so dim, it’s useful to find the Leo and Gemini constellations.
Cancer lies between them. Their brightness will help illuminate it.
What is the Location in the Night Sky?
Cancer’s location is at a latitude of 90 degrees and -60 degrees.
It takes up 506 square degrees of space. It takes center stage between its brighter counterparts of Gemini and Leo.
The Cancer constellation has two unique objects, named after Charles Messier, a French astronomer, who discovered them in 1771.
One is M67, which is an open cluster of stars.
What Cancer lacks in brightness it makes up for with the second object. M44, or the Beehive Cluster.
This is another open cluster of about 50 stars that looks like a bee swarm.
These stars are bright and can also help us to find the Cancer constellation. It is one of the closest clusters to the Earth.
This makes it very popular with amateur astronomers.
The Beehive has 5 planets, including one that is considered habitable due to its temperatures that are similar to Earth.
There are 84 exoplanets surrounding Cancer.
Exoplanets are planets that orbit around a constellation.
The most famous of Cancer’s exoplanets is 55 Cancri, also known as the diamond planet.
Past research suggested that the planet has a surface of graphite which covered a large layer of diamond, hence it’s nickname.
However, follow-up studies have shown this to be untrue.
There isn’t enough carbon for diamonds to form. Further studies have also shown that the exoplanet is extremely hot and oozes tons of lava.
What Ways Can People Use the Constellation?
Though we may still use constellations for navigation, Cancer does not make a great GPS due to it being so dim.
However, there are other ways to use it.
Astronomers use it to gauge and observe the ever changing form of space.
Stars are important for making new discoveries.
People also use the star cluster to guide their destiny through astrology.
Many folks swear by how the stars and planets align to make decisions about their lives.
Cancer Constellation History
The Cancer constellation has been mentioned throughout history as far back as 4000 BC.
Egyptian writings mention the constellation and called it a tortoise.
Later, it was referred to as a scarab (beetle).
By about 2000 BC, Cancer was known as the crab.
The philosopher Plato thought of the constellation as the route through which souls went to attain their human form.
The Link Between Astrology and the Constellations
In astrology, the 12 signs make up the Earth’s 360 degree orbit around the sun.
Each astrological sign is aligned with the time of year they orbit the sun.
Cancer aligns with the sun, serving as a backdrop, from June 22 (the summer solstice) to July 22.
This is why people born between these dates are known as Cancers.
Though Cancer is not the brightest constellation in the sky, it certainly has its interesting points.
From the Beehive to its ancient history.
This elusive heavenly body is certainly worth seeking out in the night sky.