The Constellation Cancer

by Dominic Ford
Cancer Cancer
The constellation Cancer. Roll mouse over to see labels.
Source: Stellarium.

Cancer is a moderately sized constellation visible in the northern sky around February, and one of the twelve members of the zodiac.

Despite this, it is not particularly conspicuous. Its brightest star has a magnitude of only 3.5.

It is best known for its deep sky objects, and in particular the open cluster M44, the Beehive cluster or Praesepe. This can be found near the center of the constellation.

Cancer is Latin for ‘crab’ and is identified with a rather inconsequential event in Greek mythology. The crab in question appeared while Hercules was fighting the Hydra, and bit his foot. Hercules then crushed it, and that was the end of the crab.

The constellation gives its name to the Tropic of Cancer, the line at a latitude of 23.5°N where the Sun is overhead at the June solstice. In ancient times the Sun lay in the constellation at the time of the solstice, though this is no longer the case. The precession of the equinoxes means the Sun now lies in Taurus on June 21.

Date First Appeared
Sky Area
1.2% of the sky
505.9 square degrees
Messier Objects
Cancer contains the following Messier objects: M44, M67.
Caldwell Objects
Cancer contains the following Caldwell object: C48.
The following constellations neighbor Cancer: Canis Minor, Gemini, Hydra, Leo, Leo Minor, Lynx.
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Brightest Objects in Cancer

Stars Open Clusters Globular Clusters Galaxies
Stars Open Clusters Globular Clusters Galaxies
β-Cnc (mag 3.5) Messier 44 (mag 3.1) NGC 2750 (mag 0.0)
Asellus Australis (mag 3.9) Messier 67 (mag 6.9) NGC 2774 (mag 0.0)
ι-Cnc (mag 4.0) NGC 2795 (mag 0.0)
Acubens (mag 4.3) NGC 2807 (mag 0.0)
Asellus Borealis (mag 4.7) IC 491 (mag 0.0)
HD 71115 (mag 5.1) IC 509 (mag 0.0)
χ-Cnc (mag 5.1) IC 2226 (mag 0.0)
8-Cnc (mag 5.1) IC 2267 (mag 0.0)
ξ-Cnc (mag 5.2) IC 2329 (mag 0.0)
κ-Cnc (mag 5.2) IC 2361 (mag 0.0)
O¹-Cnc (mag 5.2) IC 2384 (mag 0.0)
σ³-Cnc (mag 5.2) IC 2399 (mag 0.0)
ρ²-Cnc (mag 5.2) IC 2414 (mag 0.0)
ζ²-Cnc (mag 5.3) IC 2430 (mag 0.0)
μ-Cnc (mag 5.3) NGC 2522 (mag 0.0)
η-Cnc (mag 5.3) NGC 2554 (mag 0.0)
θ-Cnc (mag 5.4) NGC 2569 (mag 0.0)
π-Cnc (mag 5.4) NGC 2592 (mag 0.0)
τ-Cnc (mag 5.4) NGC 2651 (mag 0.0)
σ²-Cnc (mag 5.4) NGC 2680 (mag 0.0)
ν-Cnc (mag 5.4) NGC 2735 (mag 0.0)
60-Cnc (mag 5.5) NGC 2743 (mag 0.0)
φ¹-Cnc (mag 5.6) NGC 2753 (mag 0.0)
BP Cnc (mag 5.6) NGC 2783 (mag 0.0)
3-Cnc (mag 5.6) NGC 2801 (mag 0.0)




Color scheme