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[M 44]

Messier 44

Observations and Descriptions

Known to Aratos 260 B.C.

Messier: M44.
March 4, 1769. 44. 8h 07m 22s (126d 50' 30") +20d 31' 38"
Cluster of stars known by the name of the nebula in Cancer. The position given is that of the star C.

[Mem. Acad. for 1771, p. 451-452 (first Messier catalog)]
At simple view [with the naked eye], one sees in Cancer a considerable nebulosity: this is nothing but a cluster of many stars which one distinguishes very well with the help of telescopes, & these stars are mixed up at simple view [to the unaided eye] because of their great proximity. The position in right ascension of one of the stars, which Flamsteed has designated with the letter c, reduced to March 4, 1769, should be 126d 50' 30", for its right ascension, & 20d 31' 38" for its northern declination. This position is deduced from that which Flamsteed has given in his catalog.
[p. 458] 1769.Mar. 4. RA: 126.50.30, Dec: 20.31.38.B. Cluster of stars known by the name of the nebula of Cancer: the position reported is that of the star c.

[Messier reports to have measured the stars of the Praesepe cluster in 1785, 1790, and 1796.]

Aratos (260 B.C.)
"A Little Mist," or "A Faint Nebula."
[Phainomaina or Phainomena, . After the translation by G.R. Mair. Printed in: Callimachus: Hymns and Epigrams, Lycophron and Aratus. Translated by A.W. Mair and G.R. Mair. Loeb Classical Library No. 129. Available online]
Watch, too, the Manger. Like a faint mist in the North it plays the guide beneath Cancer. Around it are borne two faintly gleaming stars, not far apart nor very near but distant to the view a cubit.s length, one on the North, while the other looks towards the South. They are called the Asses [in the constellation Cancer], and between them is the Manger. On a sudden, when all the sky is clear, the Manger wholly disappears, while the stars that go on either side seem nearer drawn to one another: not slight then is the storm with which the fields are deluged. If the Manger darken and both stars remain unaltered, they herald rain. But if the Ass to the North of the Manger shine feebly through a faint mist, while the Southern Ass is gleaming bright, expect wind from the South: but if in turn the Southern Ass is cloudy and the Northern bright, watch for the North wind.

Hipparchus (130 B.C.)
Little Cloud, Cloudy Star.

Ptolemy (about 130 A.D.; Almagest): No. 449.
The Nebulous Mass in the Breast (of Cancer).

Johann Bayer (about 1600 A.D.)
"Nubilum" [Cloudy Object].

Galileo [1609]
The nebula called Praesepe contains not one star only but a mass of more than 40 small stars. We have noted 36 besides the Aselli [Gamma and Delta Cancri].

Peiresc (probably)
[January 15, 1611] In this night in a [..] sky a Nebula was seen in the vicinity of Jupiter to the east. in which more than 15 stars have been counted.
[From G. Bigourdan (1916), Comptus Rendus, Vol. 162, Jan-Jun 1916, p. 489-490]

Hevelius: No. 291

De Chéseaux: De Ch. No. 11.
That in Cancer, commonly called Praesepe, whose position is known.

Bode: Bode 20.
The wellknown star cluster Praesepe.

Bode (1782):
[From: Vorstellung der Gestirne auf XXXIV Kupfertafeln (Introduction to the Stars on 34 Copper Plates), 1782.]
[Plate 16, p. 20]
Cnc, p. 20: No. 38 to 42 are members of Praesepe.
    No.   m  RA             Dec
    38 o  8  127:38 08:30.6 +20:32
    39    6  127:39 08:30.6 +20:46
    40    6  127:46 08:31.1 +20:47
    41 i  7  127:57 08:31.8 +20:18
    42 c  7  128:02 08:32.1 +20:30
The small cluster of stars Praesepe in Cancer is represented in the 16th plate in the upper part, to the right, by 12 of the principle stars after Flamsteed & T. Mayer. But on the 30th plate, Fig. 3, it is represented consisting of 40 stars accordint to the observations of de la Hire & Maraldi.

[Plate XXX, p. 38]
Fig. 3. The wellknown star cluster in Cancer, the Praesepe or Manger with 40 stars visible throgh telescopes projected after Maraldi and de la Hire.

Caroline Herschel
January 23, 1783. Observed it.

John Herschel (1833): h 517.
h 517 = Praesepe.
Sweep 333 (March 14, 1831)
RA 8h 30m 25.1s, NPD 69d 26' 23" (1830.0) [Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
Praesepe Cancri (M44) is so very loose and straggling that it would only be noticed as a region rich in L [large; bright] stars; - so also described in Sweeps 59 and 63.
[Sweep 59 was on February 24, 1827, sweep 63 on March 25, 1827]

Smyth: CCCXVI [316]. M44.
CCCXVI. 44 M. Cancri.
AR 8h 31m 02s, Dec N 20d 29'.7
Mean Epoch of Observation: 1831.19 [March 1831]
Position 331d.0 (w 4), Distance 150".0 (w 2)
A wide double star in the wellknown cluster Praesepe, on the Crab's body, enrolled by Messier on his celebrated list of 103, in 1769. A [mag] 6 1/2, and B 7 1/2, both white, being the sf [south following, SE] extreme of a wavy line represented by nine small stars.
The Praesepe, metamorphically rendered Bee-hive, is an aggregation of small stars which has long borne the name of a nebula, its components not being separately distinguishable by the naked eye; indeed, before the invention of the telescope, it was the only recognized one, for though that in Andromeda must have been seen, it attracted but little notice till the days of Simon Marius, in 1612. Whereas the Praesepe in Cancer engaged very early speculation; incomuch that both Aratus and Theophrastus tell us, that its dimness and disappearance during the progressive condensation of the atmosphere, were regarded as the first sign of approaching rain. The group is rather scanty in number, but splendid from the comparative magnitude of its constituents, which renders it a capital object for trying the light of a telescope. Yet Galileo discovered 36 small stars, when it was supposed that there were only three nebulous stars, which emitted the peculiar light. The Praesepe was called by the Arabians al-ma'laf, a stall or den; and also al-nathrah, the fissure between the Lion's whiskers, - a district which formed the VIIIth Lunar Mansion. See Epsilon Cancri [Smyth's No. CCCXXXIII (333)].
An occult line projected from Spica under Regulus, and about 22deg beyond the latter, rund through Praesepe; or it may be found by a ray from the Pleiades being brought mid-way between Procyon and Castor, which will pass over Epsilon, in Castor's knee. A line from Castor through Pollux, and continued about three times the distance betwen them, also reaches this remarkable cluster.

John Herschel, General Catalogue: GC 1681.
GC 1681 = h 517 = M 44.
RA 8h 32m 9.0s, NPD 69d 32' 36.2" (1860.0) [Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
Praesepe Cancri. 3 observations by W. & J. Herschel.

Dreyer: NGC 2632.
NGC 2632 = GC 1681 = h 517; Hipparchus, M 44.
RA 8h 32m, NPD 69d 32' (1860.0) [Right Ascension and North Polar Distance]
Praesepe Cancri; = M44

[Descriptions of 762 Nebulae ans Clusters photographed with the Crossley Reflector. Publ. Lick Obs., No. 13, Part I, p. 9-42]
NGC 2632, RA= 8:34 , Dec=+20: . Praesepe cluster. Stars not nebulous with an exposure of 2h, 14 s.n.
  • Observing Reports for M44 (IAAC Netastrocatalog)

    Hartmut Frommert
    Christine Kronberg

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    Last Modification: January 18, 2007