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How to Find Cancer the Crab Constellation of the Zodiac

We begin with the mythology that surrounds Cancer the Crab. Out of all the

zodiacal constellations that exist, Cancer really is one of the most

inconspicuous. It's stars are pretty faint and unless you live in an area

where there's very little light pollution, Cancer can definitely be a

challenge to find. For me I was able to figure out where this constellation was

by finding Gemini, which has two really bright stars as an easy pattern, and by

finding Leo, which also has a very distinctive pattern. Using a

star chart, I realized that Cancer sat right in the middle of these two. I

was able to figure out it was Cancer based upon this star cluster that

sits right in the middle of the constellation. It's really beautiful

to look at if you're able to magnify it through binoculars or a telescope.

When I first found this cluster I wanted to know more about it and I was really

pleased to find a rich history that surrounds a celestial object. We'll talk

about that a little bit later in the video. Just remember a theme

throughout this video will be that if you can find Gemini, and if you can find

Leo, you should be able to figure out where Cancer is, because it's right in

between them. The key is also making sure you're away from light pollution

and you have a very, very dark sky. In terms of how Cancer got its name there

is some debate out there is - how the name originated. Some believe that in

this region of the sky, it was named for the crab because at one time the Sun was

moving through cancer. Then it stopped moving northward and then

started to move south. This backward motion of the Sun was much like a crab

being able to walk backwards. This could have been one of the reasons this

area of the sky was named after a crab. But, the most famous legend that comes to

mind when talking about Cancer is the Legend of Hercules, or Heracles in

the Roman version. A crab was sent by Hera, the ever jealous God, who is always

challenging Hercules. She sent a crab to distract him while he was fighting the

many headed monster known as Hydra. Cancer only really nicked Hercules heel

and then he was crushed. So, Hera placed the crab up in the sky to honor his

bravery. Over time there have been different stories, but this is out of all

the research I've done this is the main one that keeps popping up everywhere.

In other legends, Cancer has been depicted in many different ways. For

example, some cultures like the Greeks saw a crab. The Egyptians identified

Cancer as a scarab beetle. The Babylonians saw the crab, and also a

snapping turtle in other regions of Babylonia. There's another Latin

translation that depicts cancer as a crayfish. Even in the early 17th

century, cancer was identified as a lobster as to what you can see here. What

is interesting is that even though the creatures buried throughout time and

cultures, Cancer has always been depicted as an animal that has a hard exoskeleton

and lives in water. That really is an amazing thing that many

different cultures saw something different, but similar. As a reminder,

Cancer is sandwiched in between two very prominent constellations: Leo and Gemini.

Cancer really is that transition from going into the winter

constellations and moving into the spring constellations. So you're gonna be

able to see it towards the end of winter depending on where you are on

the Earth- that also has something to do with it. But you can see it

in late February, if you stay out late into, March, April, and May. I'm

recording this now it's the month of July and I can still see cancer, but I

also live in Hawaii and about 20 degrees latitude. So, that allows me to see more

constellations for a longer period of time. I'd like to say this is an easy

constellation to find, but it is a little challenging because the stars in it are

so faint. If you live in a place with lots of light pollution, chances are you

may not be able to identify this. Its stars are only that about 4th magnitude

but you really want to be able to look for this star cluster which I will teach

you about, coming up. So without further ado let's get into the pattern of what

Cancer looks like. So here is a picture of Cancer. There are some other

constellations in here, but only partial constellations. As you look

at this photograph, I want you to start observing what is it that

stands out to you, what draws your eye when you look at this picture.

Do you see bright stars? Do you see any clusters of stars? Hopefully- and again

I always encourage you if you want more time to look at this it's good you can

always hit pause and try to figure out what you're looking at- as we move on

this is where Cancer is located. That's its pattern. If we move back to this

picture I'm hoping that this star cluster is what stood out to you.

That cluster is known as the Beehive Cluster, that's one of its many

names, it's also Messier object 44. We'll go into detail about that in a

little bit. But hopefully you were able to see this star cluster when I

originally pointed out the constellation. If you also notice these bright stars

that's excellent. These are the heads of Gemini we have Pollux and Castor. If you

notice this star right here, this is Procyon one of the bright

stars of Canis Minor the Small Dog. It's good to kind of realize

what else we're looking here. As I will constantly remind you Cancer is

situated between Gemini and Leo. Leo's not part of this picture, but here is the

basic shape. To me I kind of see an upside down y and yes you will have to

use some imagination as to, "oh my goodness what how did people see this as

a crab". Well you know you have to be creative and use your imagination, but

one thing I will point out to you is that I want you to notice how its

situated. You always notice that there's a claw down here and cancer is facing

Leo. So if you would come back here this would be a claw possibly, this could be a

claw, maybe this represents the legs? I say that with a question mark, because

again I don't really see a crab here. But not all constellation patterns really

match up with what they're supposed to look like.

Here's another image of what Cancer the Crab looks like. Notice the upside down Y

shape. Then I like you also to notice Gemini right here, where you can see

Pollux and Castor. Then right down here you have Canis Minor which has

another bright star called Procyon. Of course notice that Cancer is

situated between Gemini and Leo. What I want you to look for in the next

picture are some of these bright stars. Then you're going to look for M44,

the Beehive cluster to see if you can find it.

So remember from the last picture- I'm hoping that you find Pollux and Castor

the two bright stars of Gemini. Then Procyon which is the bright star in

Canis Minor. if you can find those three stars move to the left side of the

screen. Notice if who you can find the Beehive cluster. Keep in mind that it

does take time to get yourself use to the patterns, being able to find them,

and remembering what they are. So let's take a look at our answer here you have

Gemini, Pollux, and Castor. Canis

Minor is right down here with a bright star Procyon. You can find these three-

hopefully you were able to find the Beehive Cluster which is in the

constellation of Cancer. Now that I've taught you the pattern of Cancer, let's

go through and look at some of the stars. If we take a look at this depiction of

Cancer, notice how the stars are not as bright as some of its next-door

neighbors. What you want to start to notice is the two bright stars of Gemini

then the bright star in Canis Minor. If you can find these three stars-

all you have to know is that Cancer sits right next to it. So here is our picture

of cancer, again, look towards the center of the photo and you should see

the bright star cluster called MM44. From there try to find the upside-down Y

shape. You'll also probably notice Castor and Pollux the bright stars of Gemini.

And just a part of the bright star called Procyon in Canis Minor. Here's the

shape. Let's look at what the names of some of these stars are. So we have

Acubens which is Arabic for claws. This star is 174 light-years away. Next we

have Al Tarf, again, another Arabic name which means

for the end. This star is 290 light-years away. Then we have these two stars

sitting right next to each other. We have Asellus Borealis

which stands for the northern ass. It is 181 light-years away.

Then Asellus Australis, this stands for the southern ass or donkey. This

one is 131 light-years away. There's some interesting mythology about both of

these stars. According to the Greeks, these stars represented the donkeys that

the god Dionysus and his tutor, Salinas, rode in on the war against the Titans.

These donkeys frightened the Titans and the war against them was won. So the gods

placed the donkeys up in the sky to honor them. That's a little bit of an

interesting story there for you about those stars. Finally we're going to take

a look at the celestial objects within Cancer. So looking at our star map here

there's two that we are gonna focus on one is M44 and the other is M67. The

location of M44 is right between the two stars that represented the donkey.

It's really a spectacular star cluster this one is called Messier 44.

It's an open star cluster which means it's relatively young in the

history of the universe on the order of millions of years. It's about

515 light years away and to the unaided eye it looks like a fuzzy patch

in the sky. It has been called the Beehive Cluster by early observers

because of its resemblance to a swarm of bees. The name has since stuck in

modern times. Some ancient cultures believed they were peering into the

floor of heaven called the gate of men, where the souls descended from heaven to

Earth to be born. It has also been called Praesepe II. This star cluster

played a very important role in the history of astronomy. Galileo was the

first to turn his telescope to this fuzzy patch in the sky.

He discovered it was a star cluster and this cluster that he discovered along

with many other observations made by Galileo really became the catalyst to

the scientific revolution- the idea is that the universe were

laid out by us. Aristotle, so many years ago, just began to shift once

Galileo started to change the old beliefs with his observations of the sky.

Our final celestial object within Cancer is called M67.

It is another open star cluster. It's located towards the bottom

of the Y here. It's not as bright as M44 is, but it still is worth taking a

look at through your binoculars their telescope if you have one. So it is about

2,700 light-years away. Being that it's an open star cluster it is again

relatively young on the order of millions of years. We consider that

young because the age of the universe is on the order of billions of years. So

this star cluster is one that is relatively young. To review. Cancer the

Crab is best seen in the springtime. It is a zodiacal

constellation, which means that the Sun, the planets, and the Moon all pass

through the borders of this constellation. The best way to find it is

looking for Gemini. If you can find the two bright stars of Castor and

Pollux, you just need to shift your gaze and try to find the fuzzy patch in the

sky. In terms of bright stars, this is not one that has very many bright stars at

all. In fact the way I am able to identify this in the sky is by looking

at the celestial object called the Beehive Cluster or Praesepe, also known

as M44. The other celestial object is located down towards the bottom of the

constellation and that is another open star cluster. Thank you so much for

watching! I hope this was helpful and you were able to learn more

about how to identify Cancer in the sky, and the objects that are situated within

its borders.