α Cancri


Alpha Cancri, "Acubens" (claws), is not the brightest star in this faint constellation. Delta Cancri, NNW seven degrees, holds that distinction. Not only that, but delta is the centre of the most interesting part of Cancer, the 'head' of the crab, while alpha is only one of its legs.

Nevertheless, let's begin our investigation of Cancer with alpha, for there is a Messier object, M67, in the same field of view.

Finding the stars of Cancer could be a bit of an adventure, particularly if you don't enjoy the darkest of nights and the blackest of skies.

With the naked eye spot Procyon (alpha Canis Minoris). If you aren't sure which star this is, begin with Orion (if it's still visible in the west). Due east of Betelgeuse (alpha Ori) and south of the twins Gemini is the brightest star in this region: Procyon.

Now move eastward two full fields of vision and you'll come across the Hydra's head: binoculars. Hydra's Head is high in the heavens around midnight in late January, early February looking south.

Move northeast one and a half binocular fields and you'll come to alpha Cancri on the eastern edge with M67 centred.

Before you study M67 you might want to examine a fine telescopic binary, in the region of the Hydra's Head. Drop down southwest back to the Hydra's Head; just on the border with Hydra is Struve 1245: 6.0, 7.2; 25 and separation 10".

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1999-2014 by Richard Dibon-Smith.