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M44 - The Beehive Cluster in Cancer | Astrophotography Tips & Pictures

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Messier 44 is a bright and popular open cluster in the constellation Cancer. It is large and best observed and captured with a small telescope so that all the stars can fit in the field of view. In this post, you will find information, images, and tips to photograph this beautiful cluster.

Object Designation: M44, NGC 2632, Cr 189

Also known as: The Beehive Cluster, Praesepe

Constellation: Cancer

Object Type: Open Cluster

Distance: 610 light-years away

Magnitude: 3.7

Discovery: Galileo Galilei in 1609

The Beehive Cluster is an easy target for beginner astrophotographers because the stars are bright and spread out over a large field of view. Being in Cancer, M44 is best observed during the months of February, March, and April.


M44 Astrophotography with a Refractor Telescope and Monochrome Camera

April 2023

I've wanted to capture the Beehive Cluster for years, but kept pushing it back because I really wanted to use a reflector on this target instead of a refractor. Why? So that I could get beautiful diffraction spikes on all these bright stars within the open cluster.

Realizing that I wouldn't be using a reflector for quite some time, I decided to point my refractor at it and start imaging it. I spent 5 hours on this target, although one or two hours would have been enough from a dark sky (Bortle 2). I did 5 full hours not to try revealing more details anywhere, but to ensure that I would not have any noise in the background. You can see the final image below!

Messier 44 Beehive Cluster Astrophotography


Camera: QHY600M

Telescope: Stellarvue SVX130

Mount: 10Micron GM1000 HPS

Accessories: Moonlite Nitecrawler focuser / Pegasus Astro Ultimate Powerbox

Processing: Pixinsight, with RC-Astro plug