Constellation - Cancer

Constellation - Cancer

CancerCC cropped.jpg

Cancer, the crab is one of the zodiac constellations. It is the dimmest of these constellations. It is found between Leo and Gemini in the night sky. It can be easily recognised by it's upside down 'Y' shape (or right way up 'Y' shape if you live in the southern hemisphere). The constellation is best known for the fabulous beehive open cluster. This is one of the gems of the night sky and should not be missed.

Cancer is home to the the meteor shower the Delta Cancrids. This shower peaks on January 17th with a rate of about 4 meteors an hour.


Cancer the crab is thought to represent the crab that nipped at the heels of Hercules as he battled Hydra. Hydra the constellation can be found south of Cancer.

Image credit: Till Credner

Take the Tour

Number Object Description Magnitude Surface Brightness
1 M44 Open Cluster 3.1 13
2 M67 Open Cluster 6.9 13

Each image is the size of a full moon for size comparison.



Messier 44, the beehive cluster is an open cluster found in Cancer. It is one of the nearest clusters to us and is probably related to the open cluster Hyades in Taurus. This open cluster is located around 580 light years away and has been described since ancient times.

Ptolemy, the astronomer that lived in Egypt under Roman rule described the beehive as the "nebulous mass in the breast of Cancer". Despite this the cluster was attributed to Gallileo, whom was the first to see it through a telescope in 1609.



Messier 67 is another very nice open cluster that can be seen in Cancer. It is thought to be one of the oldest visible open clusters near to us at around 5 billion years old. It was discovered by Johann Gottfried Koehler in 1779. The cluster is about 2,600 light years away and contains around 500 stars. Being such an old cluster this one is one of the most frequently studied open clusters.

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