The Beehive Cluster

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About Jon Greif

Occupying an area 95 arc minutes across, it fits in the field of view of binoculars and low power telescopes. Larger telescopes reveal more than stars in the cluster. The best time of year to observe the Beehive Cluster is from February to May, when Cancer rises high in the sky for northern observers. The constellation is pretty faint, but it lies between two considerably brighter zodiac constellations, Leo to the east and Gemini to the west. Another faint constellation, Lynx , lies to the north, while Canis Minor , with the bright star Procyon, lies to the south of M An easy way to find the cluster is to draw a line from Pollux in Gemini to Regulus in Leo.

M44 lies about halfway along the line. Praesepe is one of the brightest Messier objects and has been known since ancient times.

Beehive Cluster - Wikipedia

Winnecke 4 M40 , which is also closer, is a double star and not a deep sky object. Praesepe has a similar age and proper motion to the Hyades , the nearest open cluster to the solar system, which lies in the same line of sight as the bright star Aldebaran in Taurus constellation. The two clusters likely share a similar origin. The bright central core of M44 has a linear diameter of Praesepe contains at least 1, stars and has a mass between and times solar. About 68 percent of the members are M-class red dwarfs, 30 percent are of spectral types F, G and K, and 2 percent of the members are bright, A-class stars.

The Beehive: 1,000 stars in Cancer

Researchers have also found 11 white dwarfs. Messier 44 has experienced mass segregation, a process often seen in star clusters and other gravitationally bound systems e. The bright, massive stars of M44 are now concentrated in the central region of the cluster while the fainter, less massive members are found in the halo. In , scientists discovered two planets orbiting two separate stars in the Beehive Cluster. These were the first planets discovered orbiting Sun-like stars in a star cluster. The planets, designated Prb and Prb, are hot Jupiters, extrasolar gas giants with characteristics similar to Jupiter and high surface temperatures because they have a much closer orbit to their parent stars.

The Beehive Cluster (trailer)

These planets are also known as roaster planets, epistellar jovians or pegasids. Messier 44 is a prominent deep sky object and has been known since ancient times.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Watch, too, the Manger. Like a faint mist in the North it plays the guide beneath Cancer. They are called the Asses, and between them is the Manger. On a sudden, when all the sky is clear, the Manger wholly disappears, while the stars that go on either side seem nearer drawn to one another: not slight then is the storm with which the fields are deluged.

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If the Manger darken and both stars remain unaltered, they herald rain. But if the Ass to the North of the Manger shine feebly through a faint mist, while the Southern Ass is gleaming bright, expect wind from the South: but if in turn the Southern Ass is cloudy and the Northern bright, watch for the North wind.

He reported: "the nebula called Praesepe, which is not one star only, but a mass of more than 40 small stars". Cancer reaches it culmination at midnight around the end of January.

Historical observations

In mid-March it will pass through the meridian at Cancer is a faint constellation. It's brightest star is Altarf Beta Cancri with magnitude 3.

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  • Praesepe (M44): The Beehive Cluster?

M 44 lies in the centre of Cancer, surrounded by an irregular rectangle formed by Delta Cancri 3. It can be spotted with the naked eye, though at a suburban site, you might have to use averted vision. With small binoculars you can identify Praesepe immediately. This object is best viewed with big binoculars or rich field telescopes. It's diameter is about 1.


Personally I think an 11 or 12 x 80 would be very good. A rich field telescope using magnification of 25x will bring out more of the dimmer cluster members. Using the 32mm eyepiece on my telescope 8 inch F10 gives a FOV of 48 arc minutes. Only the centre of the cluster can be seen. You find an observation report and drawing of M 44 in the "Log-Section". The star map below shows M44 with stars plotted to magnitude

The Beehive Cluster The Beehive Cluster
The Beehive Cluster The Beehive Cluster
The Beehive Cluster The Beehive Cluster
The Beehive Cluster The Beehive Cluster
The Beehive Cluster The Beehive Cluster

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