The Beehive Cluster

Facts about and images of M44, also known as the Beehive Cluster.

M44 - Behive Cluster (

The Beehive Cluster is an open star cluster located in the constellation Cancer, about 600 lightyears from Earth.

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The cluster is also known as M44, its designation in the famous Messier Catalogue, or Praesepe.

The Beehive Cluster is relatively young, estimated to be about 600 million years old, and is thought to host about 1,000 stars, covering an area about 15 lightyears wide.

It is one of the most well-known objects in the Messier Catalogue and can be seen with the naked eye under good conditions, making it a popular target for conjunctions with the Moon and panets.

Venus and a 14%-lit waning crescent Moon near M44 on the morning of 14 September. Credit: Pete Lawrence
Venus and a 14%-lit waning crescent Moon near M44 on the morning of 14 September. Credit: Pete Lawrence

The Beehive Cluster is also noteworthy because in 2021, astronomers announced the discovery of two massive, hot exoplanets in orbit around two of its Sun-like stars, named Pr0201b and Pr0211b.

Since the first exoplanet discoveries in the 1990s, astronomers now estimate that for every star we can see in the night sky, there is likely at least one planet in orbit around it.

Below is a selection of images of the Beehive Cluster captured by astrophotographers and BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers.

For astro imaging advice, read our guide on how to photograph the stars or our beginner’s guide to astrophotography.

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And don’t forget to send us your images or share them with us via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

M44 - The Beehive Cluster by Bill McSorley, Leeds, UK. Equipment: SW 150P Newtonian, EQ5 GoTo Mount, QHY8L cooled ccd.
M44 – The Beehive Cluster by Bill McSorley, Leeds, UK. Equipment: SW 150P Newtonian, EQ5 GoTo Mount, QHY8L cooled ccd.
M44 Beehive cluster over Looe Bay by Martin Syms, Seaton, Cornwall, UK. Equipment: Nikon 3e00 DSLR, 18mm-55mm lens.
M44 Beehive cluster over Looe Bay by Martin Syms, Seaton, Cornwall, UK. Equipment: Nikon 3e00 DSLR, 18mm-55mm lens.
M44 Cluster by Jaspal, London, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher Espirt 100ED, QSI 690 CCD, Ioptron CEM60 mount.
M44 Cluster by Jaspal, London, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher Espirt 100ED, QSI 690 CCD, Ioptron CEM60 mount.
M44 - Behive Cluster (
M44 – Behive Cluster (“Praesepe”) in Cancer by Bill McSorley, Leeds, UK. Equipment: SW 150P Newtonian, HEQ5Pro Mount, QHY8L cooled ccd.
Beehive Cluster by Jaspal Chadha, London, UK. Equipment: Altair Astro RC 250TT, Astrophysics reducer, QHY9S MONO CCD, Ioptron CEM60 mount, Chroma Technology filters
Beehive Cluster by Jaspal Chadha, London, UK. Equipment: Altair Astro RC 250TT, Astrophysics reducer, QHY9S MONO CCD, Ioptron CEM60 mount, Chroma Technology filters