The Cancer constellation is located from 6 degrees north to 33 degrees north. Although it occupies the total area of 506 sq degrees, it is one of the faintest constellations in the sky. The Cancer constellation is located in between Lynx (to its north) and Hydra and Canis Minor (to its south); whereas the Leo and the Gemini constellations are located to its east and west respectively. The constellation of Cancer is very difficult to view with the naked eye, however, spring is considered as the best time to view this constellation, if possible! The Messier object 44, a cluster of stars called the 'Beehive' or 'Praesepe', is located within the Cancer constellation. The stars included in this constellation are Alpha Cancri (Acubens), Beta Cancri (al-Tarf), Gamma Cancri (Asellus Borealis), Lambda Cancri (Kwan Kei), Delta Cancri (Asellus Australis), Xi Cancri (Nahn), and Zeta Cancri (Tegmine).
Mythology of the Cancer Constellation
According to the Cancer constellation history, the name and structure of this constellation has its roots in Greek mythology. It is common knowledge that Zeus, the Greek God, often indulged in promiscuity. In one of his many pursuits of pleasure, he had an affair with Alcmene, the queen of Tiryns, who later gave birth to their son Hercules (also known as Heracles). This did not go well with Hera, Zeus's younger sister and wife, who was hence determined to get Hercules killed. Therefore, among one of his 12 labors or trials, Hercules confronted with Hydra, or the water monster. At the same time, Hera sent the crab or the crustacean to distract Hercules in his battle with Hydra. The giant crab or the Cancer nipped at Hercules feet to divert his attention from Hydra. However, Hercules killed the crab by crushing its shell with his feet. Although Hera is regarded as one of the most ungrateful of the Greeks, she was pleased with the services of the crab and rewarded it by placing it in the sky. This is considered as the Cancer constellation as it resembles the crab or the crustacean. Therefore, we find that the Cancer constellation mythology is one of the most interesting and apt tales among all the constellation mythologies.
Cancer Constellation Facts
Here are some quick facts about the Cancer constellation.
- The abbreviation for Cancer: Cnc
- Nickname of constellation: Crab
- Rank in constellation according to size: 31st
- The nearest star to the Earth: DX Cancri
- The brightest star in the constellation: Beta Cancri (Al-Tarf)
- Shape of the constellation: upside down 'Y'