The Beehive

 

So, last time we had a look at the twins in Gemini – the stars Castor and Pollux.

Tonight we’re looking at a nice feature in the constellation of Cancer, just to the right and above the twins.

Looking due north at around 9.oo pm you should be able to clearly make out the two bright stars which are Castor and Pollux. About 1 outstretched hand width above and slightly to the right of the “top” star ( Pollux), you should be able to make out a faint haze. Binoculars will bring out a quite stunning open cluster in the centre of Cancer. It’s called the Beehive cluster, or Praesepe.

Its about 600 light years away and contains around 1000 stars, although the majority won’t ge visible in your binoculars. The entire cluster has a diameter of over 20 light years.

Comparing it to an earlier cluster we’ve looked at ( the seven sisters), you will notice that the stars in this cluster are not as blue, tending rather towards orange and white. This indicates the beehive cluster is older ( 600 million years) than the seven sisters.

As the constellation of Cancer doesnt really contain any really bright stars, the beehive is a good guide to the constellation, as it is located at the “heart” of the crab.

Next time we’ll look at an upside down lion.

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