M44

M44 - Beehive Cluster

Messier 44 or M44 (also designated NGC 2632) is an open cluster in the constellation Cancer. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 3.7 and its angular diameter is 95 arc-minutes. M44 lies at an estimated distance of 577 light years. The Equinox 2000 coordinates are RA= 8h 40.1m, Dec= +19° 59´ which makes M44 best seen during the winter. The Messier Winter Star Chart shows the position of all Messier objects visible during that season. As one of the more famous objects in the Messier Catalog, it is commonly known as the Beehive Cluster.

The image above shows the uncropped view of M44 through the Takahashi E-180 Astrograph (North is up). A 2x enlargement of this image appears to the right.

M44, the Beehive or Praesepe Cluster is a large, naked eye star cluster known since antiquity. It is one of the closest open clusters and may have formed in the same interstellar cloud with the Hyades Cluster. According to Kharchenko et al. (2005), the distance of M44 is 610 light years and its diameter is 15 light years. It contains 1000 stars and its estimated age is 500-700 million years.

For more information, see the Messier Catalog as well as specific entries for M44 in Wikipedia and SEDS.

Messier's Description of M44

March 4, 1769
`Cluster of stars known by the name of the nebula in Cancer. The position given is that of the star C.'

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