Another Two for One

   Saturday evening around an hour or so after sunset local time three planets will be visible above the southwestern to western horizons. Lowest is the innermost planet Mercury. It is actually best viewed a little earlier as at the time shown in this graphic Mercury is just about to set. On the other hand Venus shining with an apparent magnitude of -4.15, and much higher above the horizon Jupiter with a -2.15 apparent magnitude would be difficult to miss. Both of these planets are each near an open star cluster. Near enough so that each of these planet/star cluster pairs will fit within the field of view of binoculars.

   Venus is within 2o from the open star cluster M-35. This is a grouping of several hundred stars located at a distance of around 2800 light years that shines with a combined apparent magnitude of between 5 and 6. This puts it right around the naked eye limit but visible with binoculars. Jupiter is within 6-7o from the open star cluster M-44, or the ‘Beehive Cluster’. This easily seen star cluster has an apparent magnitude of around 3.5 and is composed of 300 stars located at a distance of around 155 light years.

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

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