Cancer the
Crab

The Greek mythology of Cancer the Crab is simply a family mess. It is hard to imagine that the mighty family of Zeus could be so dysfunctional, but there you have it. The story begins with Zeus having an affair with Alcmene, the queen of Tiryns. The result of this union was the Heracles (the Romans named him our familiar Hercules), the most famous Greek Hero. Of course, this union and offspring did not go over too well with Hera, the wife of Zeus. Hera, in her jealous state, swore to kill Hercules. Hera attempted to have Hercules killed many times but his imposing strength allowed him to overcome. Cancer comes into this ‘beloved’ scene when Hercules is fighting the terrible water-serpent, Hydra. During the battle between Heracles and Hydra, Hera sent Cancer, the giant crab, to aid the serpent. As the violent fight took place, Cancer was nipping at Hercules feet. But Heracles, being so mighty in strength, killed the crab by smashing its shell with his foot. Hera then placed the crab's image in the night sky as a reward for it’s service.

Cancer may be found between the constellations of Leo and Gemini.

Cancer contains two Messier Objects,:

M44—Praesepe or The Beehive Cluster and

M67 one of the oldest known Open Clusters aged 3.2 billion years.


Copyright 2001 Fox Valley Astronomical Society