Another work in progress…
The Beehive Cluster (or M44 as the astronomers have named it) or Praesepe a Latin word for manger is an open star cluster (one of the largest in this area of the sky) located at around 7 degrees of the seasonal sign Leo and in the constellation of the Crab (a.k.a Cancer).
This cluster does look like a swarm of stars (bees) with more than 40 visible stars seen as a cloudy patch by the naked eye. You must be under a dark skies to see the Beehive Cluster with the naked eye.
Interestingly, this was one the first objects that Galileo studied with his telescope.
The best way to find the Beehive Cluster is to locate the twin stars Pollux and Castor and/or find the Lion constellation featuring Regulus at the base of the backward question mark that defines the Lion’s head.
The Beehive Cluster lies somewhere in between Pollux and Regulus. As previously mentioned it is difficult to see unless you are under a very dark sky because even though it is a third magnitude cluster it is spread about a degree and half across the sky with its light spreading over an area bigger than three Full Moons though likely easier to find if you have binoculars.
The best time to see it is when a planet is passing through this part of the sky. Then next best time is when there is a tiny crescent Moon nearby.
In ancient times this cluster often served to predict the weather, meaning if the night sky was NOT crystal clear then inclement weather might be on the way. Pliny (Gaius Plinius Secundus AD 23/24 – 79, was a Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher) said, “If Praesaepe is not visible in a clear sky it is a presage of a violent storm”. http://www.constellationsofwords.com/stars/Praesaepe.html
Another story describes the crab that bit the heel of Hercules during his fight with the Lernean Hydra. In gratitude Juno (enemies with Hercules) then placed the crab in the sky. [Robson*, p.33.]
Planets passing the Beehive
The Moon passing this area of the sky dims many of the stars of the Beehive but is a great way to locate where the Beehive is. Also worth noting is the star Regulus located to the left (or east) of the Beehive. On the opposite side or to the right (or west) of the Beehive are the bright stars Castor and Pollux marking the outer edge of the Sacred Hoop.
Each year Venus and Mercury pass this area of the sky. Mars passes here around every two years, Jupiter around every 12 years and Saturn about every 30 years. Stay tuned for planetary tables coming soon.
Bees matter and are essential to the whole. Environmentally, Bees are vital to the health and well-being of our planet pollinating flowers and crops so they can reproduce. This is why Bees are considered a fertility symbol. Bees also teach us about enjoying the blessings of nectar or sweetness of life.
A good question to consider is … Are you enjoying the sweetness of life? If not what can you do to change that?
This is a time for tuning into the message of Bee Medicine. Bees may be small but their medicine is vast. Bee Medicine reminds us to BE. It reminds us about the sweetness of life. It reminds us about the natural rhythms of life as Bees have a strong connection to the cycles of the Sun. For example, the Sun opens the flowers for the bees to gather the nectar to make honey. When the Sun goes down the flowers close up and bees return to their hives.
Bees work in community and together they produce honey, creating a literal experience of the sweetness of life. Bees seemingly accomplish the impossible suggesting we can accomplish anything we put our energy and passion towards.