…continuedA Sampling of Star Clusters
Spring and the Beehive
The dim constellation Cancer, the Crab, is often depicted as an upside-down Y. Near the junction of its arms lies the Beehive star cluster (M44). It is faintly visible to the unaided eye as a hazy patch of light. Binoculars reveal 20 fairly bright stars and many dimmer ones. Several of the brighter stars form a V-shaped pattern. A small telescope will reveal that one of the stars in the northern arm of the V is a triple-star system with yellow, blue-white, and white components. Look around other stars in the cluster also show hints of color.
Many people have seen Melotte 111, but few know it by that name and fewer realize that it's a true star cluster: the sprinkling of faint stars that forms the constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair). By either name, it looks best in low-power binoculars. Through 8 x 40s, you'll see about 30 fairly bright stars and many fainter ones across the 5°-wide area. The six brightest roughly form an upside-down Y. The one at the end of its southeast branch (17 Comae Berenices) is actually a double star.