Skies By Africa

Images of the Heavens By Eric Africa

M44, the Beehive Cluster

M44 is one of only two Messier objects (both open clusters) in the small constellation of Cancer. This is one of the first objects I recall seeing as a faint cloud to the naked eye at a dark site (Newfound Gap in the Smoky Mountains) that resolved into stars with binoculars. What a site!

In researching about this cluster, I found a passage that mentions Galileo being the first to resolve the stars in this "small cloud". I guess I shared Galileo's experience that night!

There are about 200-350 stars in this cluster, which was determined by their sharing a "common proper motion" through the sky. In other words, all the stars in the cluster are moving in the same general direction together. These 200-odd stars span occupy just ten light years of space. Consider that the nearest star to the Sun (Proxima Centauri) is more than four light-years away, 200+ stars in a 10-light-year radius sounds positively crowded!

This image is a very short "first proper light" for my Takahashi FSQ-106. I had purchased that telescope used, and it arrived with some lenses out of alignment, resulting in misshaped stars. This is the first image I shot after repairs, showing nice round stars.
Constellation: Cancer
When Visible: January - May
Distance: 600 Light-years
Date: April 2006
Location: West Chester, Ohio
Exposure Details:
L: 12 x 15 Seconds, Binned 1x1
R: 12 x 15 Seconds, Binned 1x1
G: 12 x 15 Seconds, Binned 1x1
B: 12 x 15 Seconds, Binned 1x1
Equipment Used: Takahashi FSQ-106N on a Takahashhi EM200 Temma-2 mount. SBIG STL-6303 camera with 5-position filter wheel and Astrodon LRGB filters. Unguided short exposures.
Acquisition Software : MaximDL, TheSky6
Processing Software: MaximDL, Photoshop CS, IrFanView