Farmers Almanac
The Farmers Almanac
ORDER our 200th Year
2018 Edition!

A Celestial Gem: Praesepe, The Manger

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Add to Google+ Share on Pinterest Subscribe by Email Print This Post
A Celestial Gem: Praesepe, The Manger

The dim constellation of Cancer, the Crab, high toward the south during the mid-evening hours, is the least conspicuous of the twelve Zodiacal constellations. It is noteworthy however, because it contains one of the brightest galactic star clusters. But what to call it? It goes by a couple of names.

Some astronomy texts speak of “Praesepe, the Manger,” (pronounced “PRAY-seppy”). A manger is defined as “a trough in which feed for donkeys is placed.”

The cluster was apparently first called Praesepe 20 centuries ago. Galileo first resolved it into stars with his telescope in 1610. More than 100 stars can be seen in binoculars or a telescope.

The cluster’s relatively “new” moniker – “The Beehive” – might have evolved some four centuries ago, when some anonymous person, upon seeing so many stars revealed in one of the first crude telescopes, exclaimed, “It looks just like a swarm of bees!”

(Continued Below)

Hence, the reason for why some astronomy books call the cluster “Beehive,” while others call it “Praesepe.”

Perhaps the older designation “Praesepe” is preferable since two nearby stars of Cancer have been known for 2,000 years as Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis — the northern and southern ass colts — feeding from a manger.

Although these may be thought of as willing but somewhat dumb beasts, they would hardly feed from a beehive!

To locate Praesepe, find the constellation Cancer the Crab. Where it forms its Y shape, try to locate the faint smudge of stars.

Praesepe is best viewed with a good pair of binoculars or telescope at the end of February or in early March. As the months pass, it will climb higher in the evening sky. It disappears from the western evening sky in late June, and returns to the eastern morning sky in late August.

Articles you might also like...


There are no comments yet...

Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

Note: Comments that further the discussion of the above content are likely to be approved. Those comments that are vague or are simply submitted in order to promote a product, service or web site, although not necessarily considered "spam," are generally not approved.

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

Spring Is Here – Sign Up Today!

The Farmers' Almanac is a gardener's best friend. Get 365 days of access to our online weather and gardening calendars + a copy of the 2017 Almanac
for only $13.99 $11.99!

Subscribe Today »