Comet C/2001 Q4 (NEAT) and M44 (The Beehive Cluster) in Cancer


Copyright 2004 Hap Griffin

Comet 2001/Q4 is one of many comets recently discovered by the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program.  It brightened to become naked eye visible in early May 2004.  Q4 appears to move quite rapidly across the sky.  On May 14th, the date this series of photographs were taken, it passed just west of the open star cluster M44.  This animation shows its apparent motion over approximately 30 minutes.

M44, popularly known as the Beehive Cluster, is easily noticeable by the naked eye as a bright patch in the constellation Cancer.  Known in ancient times as "Praesepe", or "the manger", it is the subject of several Greek and Roman myths.  M44 contains approximately 350 stars and lies at a distance of 577 light-years.




Date/Location:    May 14, 2004     Griffin/Hunter Observatory    Bethune, SC
Instrument:    Canon 10D Digital SLR w/ Nikon 300mm lens, piggyback on LX-200 
Focal Ratio:   f4.5
Guiding:    None
Conditions:    Visually clear (good for a May night in South Carolina!)
Weather:    68 F, slight breeze
Exposure: 13 x 2 minutes @ ISO 800 (animation)
Filters:    None
Processing:    Focused and acquired with DSLRFocus.  RAW to TIFF conversion, dark frame calibration, and DIgital Development in ImagesPlus.  Final finishing, sizing and GIF conversion in Photoshop, GIF animation in ULEAD GIF Animator 5