John Flamsteed (Feb 16th 1702):
'Near this star (12 Cma) there is a cluster.'
Charles Messier (January 16th 1765):
'A cluster of stars below Sirius: this cluster appears nebulous in an ordinary telescope of one foot focal length; it is nothing more than a cluster of small stars.'
'Larger stars in curves with ruddy star near center. Superb group visible to the naked eye.'
Quote from Dreyer's New General Catalog(NGC) for NGC 2287:
'Cluster, very large, bright, little compressed, stars of magnitude 8 and fainter; = M41.'
Quote from Deep Sky Field Guide to Uranometria 2000:
"Rich in stars; large brightness range; strong central concentration; detached. 80 stars."
M-41 is a fine bright galactic star cluster, visible to the unaided eye. It is a beautiful object in low power telescopes and is a favorite of deep-sky observers. It is a spectacular sight in 20x80 binoculars, where it takes on an almost 3-dimensional look. It contains about 25 bright stars and many fainter ones scattered over a field as large as the Moon. There is a bright reddish star near the center.
About 325 B.C. Aristotle noted M-41 as one of the mysterious "cloudy spots" then known in the sky. However, the first telescopic discovery was by Hodierna sometime before 1654. He thought that it was a “nebula”. The cluster was rediscovered by Flamsteed on Feb. 16th, 1702, and again by Le Gentil in 1749.
M-41 is a young cluster with an age of about 100 million years. ( Our sun is about 4.5 billion years old. ) There are several conflicting distance estimates, with Wallenquist’s being: distance = 1,600 light years, diameter = 25 light years.
George Normandin, KAS
March 10th, 2008