Open Cluster

Messier 44 – Beehive Cluster

The open star cluster Messier 44 in the constellation of Cancer reaches its annual culmination around January 28th.

Messier 44, also known as the Beehive Cluster, is a stunning open cluster of stars located in the constellation Cancer, which appears like a group of glowing bees swarming around a hive. Its bright and numerous stars make it a beautiful sight in binoculars or a small telescope, and its relatively close distance to Earth of about 577 light-years also makes it an easily observable object in the night sky.

Position and region

Messier 44, also known as the Beehive Cluster or Praesepe, is located in the constellation of Cancer and is part of the Milky Way galaxy. Its coordinates in the sky are right ascension 08h 40.1m and declination +19° 59′.

Unique facts

  • Messier 44, also known as the Beehive Cluster or Praesepe, is one of the nearest open clusters to Earth, located about 577 light years away in the constellation Cancer.
  • The cluster is relatively young, with an estimated age of around 600 million years, and contains over 1,000 stars, although only a few dozen are easily visible with binoculars.
  • In ancient times, the Beehive Cluster was used as a weather indicator, as it was said that when the cluster was visible in the night sky, rainy weather was on the way.
  • Messier 44 has been observed and recorded since ancient times, with references to the cluster found in the works of Homer and Hesiod, and was first catalogued by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus in the 2nd century BC.

Brightness and size

Messier 44, also known as the Beehive Cluster, is a bright open star cluster located in the constellation of Cancer. It has an apparent magnitude of 3.7, making it visible to the naked eye from a dark location. The cluster has a diameter of about 10 light-years and contains more than 1,000 stars. The apparent size of Messier 44 is about 1.5 degrees, or 3 times the size of the full Moon.

Names and numbers

  • Praesepe (M44) – The name Praesepe means “manger” in Latin and refers to the cluster’s appearance as a fuzzy patch of light resembling a feeding trough.
  • NGC 2632 – This is the New General Catalogue number assigned to the Beehive Cluster by John Louis Emil Dreyer in 1888.