The Manger

M44, a long time coming but worth the wait.

Messier 44, The Beehive Cluster, Praesepe.  This is one really large object.  It is 95 arc minutes (a bit more than 1.5 degrees) in angular size.  It’s big enough that it won’t fit in a single frame on my Canon 300D with my f/5 Schmidt-Newtonian scope.  That officially makes M44’s dimensions Big by Large!  Located about 545 light years from home, M44 is a relatively close open cluster of stars and one of the closest stellar objects.  It is large enough and bright enough that in a relatively dark sky it is easily discernible with the naked eye and is spectacular through binoculars.

M44 through a Celestron Powerseeker 4.5 with eyepiece projection on a Meade 4000 series 26mm Plossl

My first image of a DSO from May 2006

Personally I have a warm fuzzy spot for M44.  Many years ago when I first started picking up astronomy magazines I looked through the charts, read the articles and saw that Saturn was traversing M44 which made it very easy to find in suburban skies.  It was the first deep sky object I looked at through my department store telescope and I was instantly hooked.  It was also the first image I took of a DSO with my point-and-shoot digital camera clamped to my eyepiece in the same department store telescope.   Now, years later, I finally snapped another image of an old favorite.

Betelguese, Betelguese, Betelguese!

Single exposure shot in jpeg. Unguided 60 second exposure with Meade LXD75 SN6.  Canon Digital Rebel (300D) ISO 1600.  Diffraction spikes made with gaffers tape across the front of the scope.  I shot this as a focus test shot at the local dark sky site at the LBJ Grasslands near Decatur, TX last night.  Some fool forgot his Bathinov masks and had to use gaffers tape to make diffraction spikes for focusing.  I thought this might help some others and for this kind of target I think diff spikes can look pretty cool.