The constellation of Cancer: legend, number of stars, famous people of the sign

The starry sky in people’s imagination has always been associated with a repository of romantic secrets and great mysteries. Curious glances have always been drawn into the night, and imagination has done the rest – from the simple chaos of starlight, the stars in the sky have turned into meaningful figures. Among them is the zodiac constellation of Cancer.

Seeing it in the canvas of the night sky is not easy at all. The cosmic crustacean “appears” only on clear moonless nights from January to February. This period of time in Russia is considered the most convenient for observation, as the Cancer constellation reaches its highest point above the horizon.

Legends about the origin of the constellation:

1. The pinch of Hercules’ claws

Lernaean Hydra
Lernaean Hydra

The story of the appearance of the constellation on the map of the night sky, although directly related to Hercules’ second feat, is by no means heroic. Rather, it is a tale of betrayal. According to ancient Greek myths, Hercules was once supposed to fight the Lernaean Hydra – a monster with multiple snake heads, grown specifically to kill the hero. He knew about this and was not afraid, only took his club tighter.

At the advice of the goddess of wisdom Athena, Hercules forced the Hydra out of its lair with fire and engaged in battle with it. At some point, the monster almost won, for as soon as the hero cut off one of its heads, two new ones grew in its place. Then the hero changed tactics and began not only to cut off the Hydra’s heads but also to cauterize the wounds on its neck immediately.

In this battle, all the animals were on the side of the victorious Hercules, and only the Crab crawled out of the swamp to help the monster. It grabbed the man by the leg with its claw but was then crushed almost unnoticed. However, the act of the crustacean was pleasing to Hera, who sincerely hated her stepson. The slain Crab was resurrected by the goddess and raised to the sky as a constellation.

2. Euctemon’s Ass Cribs

Although the figure of Cancer looks somewhat dim and inconspicuous in the sky, it has been known to people for a very long time. It is believed that the constellation was first studied by Euctemon (an ancient Greek astronomer) in 430 BC. Only in his interpretation, it turned out that the night sky is adorned not with Cancer, but with a constellation called Ass Cribs.

In his scientific research, he relied on previously studied stars Gamma and Delta of this cluster, which the ancient Greeks called the “Donkeys”.

Another divine story is associated with them:

The same Hera sent a divine curse to another of her stepsons, Dionysus. After trying many ways to rid himself of the curse, he went to consult the Oracle. But Dionysus’s path was blocked by an impassable swamp. By a lucky chance, two donkeys were grazing nearby. They helped the young god to cross. For their kind deed, the animals were transferred to the sky and turned into two little stars. The caring Dionysus even created “Crib” constellations for them in the night sky (referring to the nebula of the same name).

Later, Claudius Ptolemy took up the compilation of a star atlas. He expanded the boundaries of the constellation and made an association with the very Cancer from the second feat of Hercules, giving it the Latin name “Cancer”. And the “Donkeys” along with their “Cribs” turned from full-fledged constellations into asterisms.

How many stars are included?

Constellation of Cancer
Cancer zodiacal constellation (VectorStock)

The constellation of Cancer comprises about 350 celestial objects, but only 5 of them can be seen with the naked eye. This is because all the stars that make up the figure have a small range of luminosity – averaging from 6 to 14 units.

  • Alpha Cancri or Acubens (from Arabic: “claw”) – observed as a single bright spot, although in fact, it is a multiple star system, the brightness of which simply overlaps;
  • Beta Cancri or Al Tarf – a binary star consisting of an orange giant and its companion;
  • Delta Cancri or Asellus Australis – one of those celestial objects that can be seen from Earth. This is the first of the two “Donkeys”: the southern one.
  • Gamma Cancri or Asellus Borealis – “Northern Donkey”, a white subgiant.
  • Zeta Cancri or Tegmen – a little-studied star system, presumably containing 4 stars. They are commonly referred to as the “Shell”.
  • Additionally, the constellation of Cancer contains several scattered star clusters: the “Cribs”, M67, NGC 2664, and NGC 2678, among others; as well as three galaxies and the Delta Cancrids meteor shower.

Interesting facts about the constellation:

  1. To the ancient Egyptians, the constellation appeared as a celestial Scarab, and to the Babylonians – as a Turtle.
  2. Sometimes the Cancer constellation is called the Crab. This confusion arose in ancient star atlases due to the depiction of arthropods.
  3. When our ancestors created the zodiacal circle, the summer solstice point was in this star cluster.
  4. In astrology, the symbol “♋” is used to denote the sign of Cancer. Among specialists, there is still no consensus on what it means: a pair of claws, a uraeus, female breasts, yin and yang, or the number 69.
  5. The constellation ranks 31st among the 88 possible locations in terms of the area of occupied space.
  6. There is a star in Cancer around which a diamond planet revolves. The statement should be taken literally – the surface of the mentioned celestial object consists precisely of this mineral.

Celebrities born under this sign

Cancer is a unique sign characterized by a feminine nature. All its representatives are soft, tender, sympathetic to others, and overly concerned about them. People of this stellar house also have a dark side. They are touchy and almost always seek revenge for any perceived offense, even if it is imagined. Getting on their blacklist can have consequences.

Moreover, almost all Cancers are melancholic, possessing a changeable nature. Therefore, getting along with them is quite challenging.

Elon MuskAll people born between June 22 and July 22 are attributed to this Zodiac sign. Among them are many famous personalities:

  • footballer Lionel Messi;
  • actor and director Vin Diesel;
  • Tom Hanks (Actor)
  • Nikola Tesla (Inventor)
  • Ariana Grande (Singer)
  • Tom Cruise (Actor)
  • Ringo Starr (Musician)
  • Selena Gomez (Singer/Actress)
  • Gisele Bündchen (Model)
  • Liv Tyler (Actress)
  • Princess Diana (Royalty)
  • Elon Musk (Entrepreneur)
  • boxer Mike Tyson;
  • actor and director Sylvester Stallone;
  • footballer and coach Zinedine Zidane;
  • writer and journalist Ernest Hemingway.

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