Cancer the Crab


The full moon is on March 18, and the last quarter is on the 25th. By March 28, you’ll be able to view the morning sky.

Obviously, Venus will be visible even with a full moon, but the other planets might not be visible until the moon gets smaller and dimmer. Mars will be just to the right of Venus, and Saturn will be just below it.

Jupiter will be visible in the East, but it’s low so if you have mountains in the East, you most likely won’t be able to see it. 

Now that Daylight Savings time is here, the evening sky will stay lighter longer, and you’ll have to stay up later to observe. But the good thing is that the morning sky will stay dark an hour later, so you won’t have to get up too early to observe the morning sky.

Along the ecliptic in the west about a third of the way up is Cancer the Crab. It's the smallest and faintest of our zodiacal constellations and only contains five stars. So, we need a clear dark sky to find it.

Fortunately, it's in between two bright zodiacal constellations. Leo the Lion is on its left and the Gemini Twins with Pollux and Castor are on its right. You might remember that Leo the Lion has the backward question mark with the bright star Regulus on the bottom.

Cancer is an upside-down V with a line pointing up above the V. It represents the crab that attacked Hercules during his fight with Hydra. The crab was crushed under the warrior's foot during the struggle. Hera the Queen of Gods who sent him to attack Hercules gave him a place in the sky.

What's interesting about Cancer are the open star clusters it contains. The best one is the Beehive cluster M44. It's an open cluster of 1,000 stars, 570 light years from Earth. It's just to the right of the top of the upside-down V.

With clear dark skies you'll be able to see it with unaided vision. Of course, binoculars will show you at least 20 stars and a telescope will show more. With the naked eye, it will look like a faint patch of light. Binoculars and a telescope will show you that the stars are glittering bright.

M67 is between the legs and close to the left. It has 500 stars but is not visible with unaided vision. Binoculars will show you some, but it's better with a telescope. The best time to look for this constellation is now before it sinks too low in the sky. That's assuming we'll have a clear night when the moon isn't visible. A tiny sliver of the moon is OK, but not a large moon.

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