M44 (NGC 2632), aka Praesepe (manger)

All Images Copyright Steve Cannistra

Please click here or on image for a higher resolution view.

Magnitude:  3.1
Size: About 1.6 degrees
Distance: 577 light years
RA: 08h 40m 14.6s
Dec: 19 degrees 39' 22"

M44, also known as the Beehive Cluster, is a large open star cluster in Cancer.  It is seen as a cloudy patch in dark skies, and was recognized as far back as 260 BC.  However, Galileo was the first to view this object through a telescope, revealing its true nature as a star cluster.  M44 is reasonably mature as open star clusters go, being about 700 million years old and containing several red giants in addition to younger, hot blue stars.  More information about M44 may be found here.

Photographic Details:

Date:  February 27, 2005
Takahashi Sky 90 at f4.5 with field flattener/focal reducer, on the G11 Losmandy Mount.  I made a circular rim out of PVC tubing which fitted over the dew shield of the Sky90 and permitted placement of an elastic band to form an "X".  This created the star spikes shown above for the brighter stars.  A photograph of this device is shown here (this could also be accomplished with kite string or fishing line).
Autoguider:  SBIG STV with e-finder.
Camera:  SXV-H9
Astronomik Type II R, G, B, plus clear filter set.
Exposures:  L:R:G:B.  5 x 3' for Luminance (clear filter); R, G, and B (5 x 3' each), all unbinned.
Conditions:  Temperature 23 degrees F; below average transparency; below average seeing; a little breezy; high, thin clouds passing through.
No darks, flats, or bias frames used. 
Auto aligned in MaximDL; Sigma combined using RC Sigma Reject plug in, followed by DDP in ImagesPlus (IP).   Subsequent levels and curves adjustments in Photoshop CS (16 bit format).

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