The Constellation of Cancer
Faintest of all of the twelve constellations in the zodiac, Cancer is composed of six simple stars, suspended between Gemini to the west and Leo to the east. On a clear, moonless night, far away from city lights, the crab (also called scarab or tortoise) is not too difficult to locate due to the two yellow stars, the Aselli (asses or donkeys) enclosing it.
A special cluster of stars, called Praesepe (pray-SEP-ee), lies within the body of Cancer. Also called “The Manger or Crib,” this nebula probably formed about 600 million years ago. Before the telescope was invented, Praesepe was called “The Beehive” and was the first nebula to be recognized. This faint cluster is about 520 light-years away and can be seen without instruments.
Lunar Phases (Faces)
Our most significant and observable celestial activity is the Moon as it continuously changes in the night’s sky. Sometimes it’s large, round, and full. At other times we cannot find it at all, or it’s in its waxing or waning crescent form. This cycle, from the dark New Moon to bright Full Moon, is called the lunation cycle. The changing phases (faces) of the Moon, as seen from Earth, depends on the angle between the Sun and the Moon. Encircling the Earth and always reflecting the light of the Sun, the Moon is our universal timepiece.