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The constellation Cancer The Crab.
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Image courtesy of Visual language.

Cancer

According to an ancient Greek legend, the figure of a gigantic crab was placed in the nighttime sky by the goddess Hera to form the constellation Cancer. Hera was the jealous wife of the sky god, Zeus. Zeus had an affair with Alcmene, the queen of Tiryns, and they had a child, Heracles.

Hera swore to kill Heracles, the most famous Greek hero. Hera attempted to kill Heracles in many different ways, but each time his incredible physical strength allowed him to survive. He was famous in the ancient world for his great strength. The Romans called him Hercules.

Heracles committed a great crime and in order to be forgiven, he had to perform twelve difficult tasks. One of these tasks was destroying the terrible water-serpent, Hydra. This serpent was sacred to Hera. During the battle between Heracles and Hydra, the goddess Hera sent a giant crab to aid the serpent.

A violent fight took place and the serpent bit Heracles' heel. But Heracles, being so strong, killed the crab by smashing its shell with his foot. After he did this he returned home to the city of Mycenae a hero. As a reward for its service, Hera placed the crab's image in the night sky.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA