March Constellations with Star Chart

Star Chart

The month of March marks the beginning of a transition from the Winter Constellations to the Spring Constellations in the northern hemisphere.  This month, I want to highlight one notable constellation – Cancer the Crab.

Cancer the Crab is a zodiac constellation.  There are a total of 12 of them.  Cancer is tough to see because it’s stars are dim.  This constellation lies between Gemini – which is to the west of it and Leo, which can be found to the east of it.  The stars that make up Cancer are Alpha Cancri, Acubens, Beta Cancri, Altarf, Delta Cancri, Asellus Australis, and Gamma Cancri.

The Beehive Cluster M44

Cancer is worth finding because it’s the home to two Messier Objects both of which are open star clusters.  Open star clusters are physically related groups of stars that are bound together by their mutual gravitational attraction. They generally contain up to two thousand stars that are roughly the same age.

The two open clusters found in Cancer are M44 and M67.  M44 is a well known cluster that also goes by the names of the Beehive Cluster and Praesepe.  M44 is one of the closest open star clusters to us here in the solar system being about 586 light years away.  This cluster has about 300 stars in it.

M67 is one of the oldest known open clusters.  It’s age is estimated to be about 4 billion years.  An interesting thing about M67 is that it has about 500 stars in it and about 100 of those stars similar to our own sun.

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