M41, the Little Beehive Cluster

Lots of clients ask me what they can see with their new telescopes from the city. Sure, you can see the Moon and the planets. But right now, most of the planets are hiding behind the Sun, and irritatingly, the Moon disappears every couple of weeks.

So what is there to look at?

Star clusters! They're pretty, easy to find, easy to see from the city, and completely under-rated.

The Little Beehive cluster, which is also known as Messier 41, or simply M41, might be a little trickier than others to find. If you go outside at around 9pm and look towards the north-north-west, you'll see Orion with his three belt stars. If you're from the Southern Hemisphere, you'll call it the Saucepan, with its three base stars.

From here, look higher and slightly towards the left. You'll see Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Sirius is the eye of Canis Major, Orion's hunting dog. The dog stretches even further away from Orion, and the Little Beehive is in the dog's body.

Have a look at the Stellarium screenshot. the NNW horizon is at the bottom, Orion is right in the middle and Canis Major is at the top.

Of course, if you're out in the country on a moonless night, you can actually see it with your unaided eye, but only if you know where to look.

Here's my photo.

Down below you'll also see a copy onto which I've put some circles showing how much of the cluster you'll be able to see in your own scope. The size of the circles shows the field of view of some popular telescopes and their eyepieces. The cluster is pretty large, and so I'd recommend you use the 25mm eyepiece. If you zoom too far in, you won't see the emptiness around the cluster, making it just look like a star field. Boring!

I've no idea why the Little Beehive cluster is called that. I was imaging the Beehive cluster (M44) on the same night, but the two clusters aren't even close to each other. And it's not as though they look similar - they both, I have to say, look like open clusters! I'll post M44 soon - maybe.