Catching the Beehive

Mar 3

Written by:
3/3/2013 9:41 PM  RssIcon

Some objects in the night sky are just easy to find - planets, for example, like Jupiter or Venus.  BAM!  There it is!  And even some deep sky objects aren't all that difficult - Messier 42, the Great Orion Nebula, is in an area with bright stars, and isn't much of a challenge to locate.  But some objects that are just fantastic are... well, out in the boonies.  It's like when you go to a wonderful park - sometimes you just have to drive a long way, through a whole-lot-of-nothing, just to get there.  And then when you do, you realize, "Wow, that was TOTALLY worth it!"

That's what it is like for the Beehive Cluster.  Also known as the Praesepe.  Also known as Messier 44.  Why so many names?  Well, from a dark sky area, you can see this cluster naked eye.  The stars can't be resolved, so it just sort of looks like a cloud up there, a little puff of celestial wonder nestled in an area with dimmer stars.  So it stands out more on it's own.  The word Praesepe stands for "manger" which is what our non-optically-aided ancestors termed it.  "Beehive" comes from a more modern view, because when this cluster is viewed with optical aid, it looks like a swarm of stars - or like a swarm of bees.  And Charles Messier added it to his list of "fuzzy objects in the sky that were not comets" - even though he undoubtedly knew it was not a "fuzzy nebula" of some sort.

Besides, it's that good.  I suppose it deserves at least three different names then.

So that means it's worth looking for, and finding.  But how?  It's in the middle of nowhere!

It's actually easier than you might think.  First, locate where Castor and Pollux are.  These are the two stars that make the "heads" of Gemini the Twins.  They aren't hard to find; look up from Procyon, which is above Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.  From there, look east. A WAYS east.  In fact, about 40 degrees east.  (Here's how to measure that distance in the sky.)  You want to find the first magnitude star Regulus.  It is almost the same brightness as Pollux, and brighter than Castor.  Now, notice how the twins have "feet" above where Orion is?  You want to look right in between the head and feet - right about where the word "Gemini" appears in the graphic below.  

Almost exactly halfway between that spot and the star Regulus is Messier 44.  Use some 7x35, 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars, and scan that area.  When you see a "swarm" of stars, STOP!  THAT is M44.  Look like a beehive?  Even from light polluted areas, there are a lot of stars to see here - easily a dozen or so of 7th magnitude or brighter.  And this week, that cluster is in an ideal location; at 9:00pm or so in the evening, it is near the meridian, the line running north, directly overhead, to south.  That places the cluster in an ideal location to find and observer.  You may want to rest on a chair or other spot, given how high overhead this is, so you don't hurt your neck.

But it is totally worth it.  Give it a try this week, if you have clear skies.  Don't worry, it will be around for a few more weeks.  

How to find and see Messier 44 in Cancer the Crab

This picture really doesn't do it justice, mostly because I'm not the greatest astrophotographer in the world.  The shot shows about 25 by 15 degrees worth of sky, with Asellis Borealis and Asellis Australis off to the left of the cluster, about 3 degrees away from each other.  This gives some indication of the cluster's overall angular diameter - over a full degree (closer to 1.5 in total).  So binoculars are really the best way to see this, unless you happen to have a rich-field telescope capable of providing a 2.5 to 3 degree field of view.

To the bottom of the picture is the much smaller open cluster M67, a faint smudge just above the "C" in Cluster.  By all accounts, M67 is not a half-bad cluster to view, so that should give some indication of just how awesome M44 actually is.  Get out there and try for at least the Beehive over the next couple of weeks.  It's well worth the effort to track it down.

For more information on what you can find and see in the night sky every week, see the homepage of Eyes on the Sky.  Light pollution reduction begins with you, and you can take simple steps to reduce night sky glow without compromising safety.  

While you're in the area, why not also take a look for Messier 67, which is just a binocular hop away?  

Photo of the Beehive Cluster in Cancer the Crab

Location: Blogs Parent Separator The Nightlight

17 comment(s) so far...

louis vuitton bags outlet online

First of all, any of the LV monogram is printed on hardy canvas, and not on something fragile as deer skin.
# louis vuitton bags outlet online

By TrackBack on   4/17/2013 9:21 PM

Re: Catching the Beehive

each of the remarkable handbags that celebs have toted to basketball games, and currently
# louis vuitton handbags outle

By TrackBack on   4/21/2013 7:06 AM

authentic louis vuitton bags

A huge number of non-indigenous pythons which can be now infesting and causing untold damage for the
# authentic louis vuitton bags

By TrackBack on   4/21/2013 7:08 AM

Re: Catching the Beehive

A huge number of non-indigenous pythons which can be now infesting and causing untold harm towards the
# louis vuitton outlet stor

By TrackBack on   4/21/2013 7:09 AM

Re: Catching the Beehive

each of the wonderful handbags that celebs have toted to basketball games, and at this time
# cheap air jorda

By TrackBack on   4/21/2013 7:11 AM

Re: Catching the Beehive

a number of of these will do just that, and theyll do it without the need of emptying your price range for the rest of the spring wardrobe.the botkier reminds of of ysl.
# louis vuitton outlet u

By TrackBack on   4/21/2013 7:22 AM

cheap louis vuitton bags

Thats an particularly fine line to walk, but its the sort of balancing act at which Bottegas Tomas Maier is definitely an absolute master C updating a appear with out losing the components that created it a good results in the very first location.
# cheap louis vuitton bags

By TrackBack on   4/21/2013 7:22 AM

louis vuitton bags us

Nazr Mohammed, after playing just six minutes in Game 1, came off the bench to deliver timely jumpers and physical defense in 18 minutes.
# louis vuitton bags us

By TrackBack on   4/24/2013 10:39 AM

louis vuitton bags

Pistole's letter did not say whether or when he might reconsider lifting the knife ban. Still, he defended easing the ban, saying the bombings at the Boston Marathon underscore the need for TSA to focus on more serious threats such as explosives.
# louis vuitton bags

By TrackBack on   4/24/2013 10:40 AM

louis vuitton online outlet

Until further notice, the items remain banned from the cabins of commercial planes.
# louis vuitton online outlet

By TrackBack on   4/24/2013 10:57 AM

Re: Catching the Beehive

Be sure that you like what you wear, also!
# cheap jordans for sal

By TrackBack on   4/26/2013 11:00 AM

Re: Catching the Beehive

If ever in doubt about what you're wearing, call up a friend!
# louis vuitton monogram canva

By TrackBack on   4/26/2013 11:00 AM

louis vuitton outlet store

The exchange firm has weighed separating its regulatory unit from the exchange business, the Journal reported this week, citing people close to the discussions.
# louis vuitton outlet store

By TrackBack on   4/27/2013 12:47 PM

louis vuitton outlet

The Chicago Board Options Exchange was forced to delay trading, including in its heavily traded stock-index options contracts, until early afternoon, leaving traders and brokers in its Chicago pits to field angry calls from customers.
# louis vuitton outlet

By TrackBack on   4/27/2013 12:48 PM

gry kasyno

Stochastic Strategy For An Electrical Training Gry Kasyno Course
# gry kasyno

By TrackBack on   5/7/2013 7:10 AM

cHEap OaklEy SunglaSSES

This article is really dulcet, a friend gave me a look. I set eyes on, I would like to express the feelings I saw. Others did not feel that I do not mind, at least now I express myself.
# cHEap OaklEy SunglaSSES

By TrackBack on   5/9/2013 1:46 AM

Fake oakleys

If you considerI do not care to set eyes on this article, the next time I am focused on about your article, I think I will never again careless. Do you believe in yourself, you do not know your article can make people so enchanted.
# Fake oakleys

By TrackBack on   5/9/2013 1:46 AM

Your name:
Gravatar Preview
Your email:
(Optional) Email used only to show Gravatar.
Your website:
Security Code
Enter the code shown above in the box below
Add Comment   Cancel 

The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.