Acubens, from the Chelae quas Acubenae Chaldai vocant of the Alfonsine Tables, is not Chaldaean, but from the Arabic Al Zubanāh, the Claws, on the southern one of which this star lies, near the head of Hydra. Bayer repeated this in his Acubene and Azubene, adding Pliny's names for it — Acetabula, the Arm Sockets of a crab, and Cirros, — properly Cirrus, — the Arms themselves, equivalent to Ovid's Flagella, which Bayer wrongly translated Scourge; others similarly saying Branchiae and Ungulae. Bayer also cited the "Barbarians' " Grivenescos, unintelligible unless it be their form of Γραψαῖος, a Crab. Sartan and Sertain are from the Arabic word for the whole figure. The star ι, marking the other claw, shares in many of these titles.
Some assign Al Hamarein to α, — an undoubted error, as Al Ḥimārain was the common Arabian term for the Aselli, γ and δ, that the Arabic signifies.
Acubens culminates on the 18th of March. The companion is 11ʺ.4 distant, at a position angle of 325°.5.
β, a 4th‑magnitude, is Al Tarf, the end, i.e. of the southern foot on which it lies.
Sunt in signo Cancri duae stellae parvae, aselli appellati.
Pliny's Historia Naturalis.
Asellus borealis and Asellus australis, the Northern and the Southern Ass Colt, were the Ὄνοι, or Asses, of Ptolemy and the Greeks; the Aselli, or Asini, of the Latins, distinguished by their position as here given, even to the present day, and now popularly known as the Donkeys. The Basil Latin Almagest of 1551 says Asinus for γ only, but the Alfonsine Tables and the Almagest of 1515 have Duo Asini; and the Arabians similarly knew them as Al Ḥimārain, the Two Asses. Bailey, in his Mystic of 1858, calls them the Aselline Starlets.
Manilius is supposed to allude to these outstretched stars as the Jugulae, taken indirectly from Jugum, a Yoke, which became Jugulum, the Collar-bone, — in the plural Jugula and Jugulae; but Ideler asserted that this originated from an erroneous statement of Firmicus, and that reference was really made by the poet to the well-known Belt of Orion.
Riccioli's strange title, Elnatret, doubtless was from that of the lunar mansion Al Nathrah, which the Aselli and Praesepe constituted.
In astrology they were portents of violent death to such as came under their influence; while to the weather-wise their dimness was an infallible precursor of rain, on which Pliny thus enlarges:
If fog conceals the Asellus to the northeast high winds from the south may be expected, but if the southern star is concealed the wind will be from the northeast.
Our modern Weather Bureau would probably tell us that if one of these stars were thus concealed, the other also would be. Pliny mentioned them with Praesepe as forming a constellation by themselves; but he was given to multiplying the stellar groups.
Inconspicuous though it be, the Babylonians used δ to mark their 13th ecliptic constellation Arkū-sha-nangaru-sha-shūtu, the Southeast Star in the Crab; and Brown says that Aselli, with η, θ, and Praesepe, were the Akkadian Gu-shir-kes-da, the Yoke of the Enclosure. They also marked the junction of the nakshatras Pushya and Āçleshā.
The following passage from Hind's Solar System in regard to δ will be found interesting:
The most ancient observation of Jupiter which we are acquainted with is that reported by Ptolemy in Book X, chap. iii, of the Almagest, and considered by him free from all doubt. It is dated in the 83d year after the death of Alexander the Great, on the 18th of the Egyptian month Epiphi, in morning, when the planet eclipsed the star now known as δ Cancri. This observation was made on September 3, B.C. 240, about 18h on the meridian of Alexandria.
was applied by Bayer to the coarse extended cluster, on the head of the Crab, composed of about 150 stars of magnitudes from 6 1/2 to 10, with two noticeable triangles among them.
With us it is the well-known Beehive, but its history as such I have not been able to learn, although it undoubtedly is a recent designation, for nowhere is it Apiarium.
Scientifically it was the Νεφέλιον, or Little Cloud, of Hipparchos; the Ἀχλύς, or Little Mist, of Aratos; the Νεφελοειδής, Cloudy One, Συστροφή, Whirling Cloud, and Nubilum, literally a Cloudy Sky, of Bayer;but the Almagests and astronomers generally of the 16th and 17th centuries referred to it as the Nebula, and Nebulosa, in pectore Cancri, for before the invention of the telescope this was the only universally recognized nebula, its components not being separately distinguishable by ordinary vision. But it seems to have been strangely regarded as three nebulous objects. Galileo, of course, was the first to resolve it, and wrote in the Nuncius Sidereus:
The nebula called Praesepe, which is not one star, only, but a mass of more than forty small stars. I have noticed thirty stars, besides the Aselli.
Popularly it also is the Manger, or Crib, the Φάτνη of Aratos and Eratosthenes; the Φάτνης of Ptolemy; and with the Latins, Praesaepe, Praesaepes, Praesaepis, Praesaepia, Praesaepium, the Alfonsine Presepe and Bayer's Pesebre, — also the modern Spanish, — flanked by the Aselli, for whose accommodation it perhaps was invented. Bayer cited for it Melleff, which Chilmead followed with Mellef, and Riccioli with Meeleph; these from the Arabians' Al Maʼlaf, the Stall; and this, in turn, derived from the Greek astronomy, for their indigenous Maʼlaf was in Crater. Schickard had this as Mallephon.
Brown includes ε with γ, δ, η, and θ in the Persian lunar station Avra‑k, the Cloud, and the Coptic Ermelia, Nurturing.
Tyrtaeus Theophrastus, the first botanist-author, about 300 B.C., and Aratos, described its dimness and disappearance in the progressive condensation of the atmosphere as a sure token of approaching rain; Pliny said,
if Praesepe is not visible in a clear sky it is a presage of a violent storm;
and Aratos in the Διοσημεῖα (the Prognostica):
A murky Manger with both stars
Shining unaltered is a sign of rain.
If while the northern Ass is dimmed
By vaporous shroud, he of the south gleam radiant,
Expect a south wind: the vaporous shroud and radiance
Exchanging stars harbinger Boreas.
Weigel used it in the 17th century, in his set of heraldic signs, as the Manger, a fancied coat of arms for the farmers.
In astrology, like all clusters, it threatened mischief and blindness.
In China it was known by the unsavory title Tseih She Ke, Exhalation of Piled‑up Corpses; and within 1° of it Mercury was observed from that country, on the 9th of June, A.D. 118, one of the early records of that planet.
This lies on the rear edge of the Crab's shell, and is known as Tegmine, In the Covering; but, if the word be allowable at all, it should be Tegmen, as Avienus is supposed to have had it. Ideler, however, said that Avienus was referring to the covering shell of the marine object, and not to the stellar.
This is a system of great interest to astronomers from the singular changes in color, the probable existence of a fourth and invisible component, and for the short period of orbital revolution — sixty years — of the two closer stars. The maximum of interval between these is but 1ʺ, the minimum 0ʺ.2; yet they never close up as one star. The third member is 5ʺ away, and its orbital period must be at least 500 years.
ζ and θ, according to Peters' investigations, probably are the objects announced by Watson as two intra-Mercurial planets, discovered (?) during the total eclipse of the sun on the 29th of July, 1878.
λ, of the 6th magnitude, with adjacent stars, was in China Kwan Wei, the Bright Fire.
μ, a 5 1/2‑magnitude, with χ Geminorum, was Tsih Tsin, a Heap of Fuel.
ξ, another 5 1/2‑magnitude, with λ Leonis, formed the seventh manzil Al Tarf, the End, or, as some translate it, the Glance, i.e. of the Lion's Eye, the ancient Asad, which occupied so large a portion of the sky in this neighborhood. They also were the Persian Nahn, the Nose, and the Coptic Piautos, the Eye, both lunar asterisms.
ξ, with κ and stars in Leo, was the Chinese Tsu Ke, one of the flags of that country.