Venus Might Get Stung!

   Thursday evening June 12th the inner planet Venus will be within less than 1o from the open star cluster M-44, or the Beehive Cluster. This is one of the closest of the open star clusters at a distance of about 500-600 light years. It contains approximately 1000 stars with a combined apparent magnitude of 3.7 meaning that it is a naked-eye visible object and certainly visible with optical aids.

   A few degrees east from the Beehive Cluster is another open star cluster, M-67. This is a collection of approximately 500 stars at a distance of between 2500-3000 light years, shining with a combined apparent magnitude of around 6. At that apparent magnitude this open star cluster could be seen with the naked-eye under dark skies and certainly with visible optical aids.

   
   
   
   

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.

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.

Moon Gets Pinched!

m44-50mm   Early Friday morning October 17th the waning crescent Moon will be in the claws of Cancer the Crab, at least figurtively. Nearby, about 7o, is the open star cluster, M-44, or as it sometimes is called, the Beehive Cluster. This small compact star cluster contains several hundred stars packed into an apparent size of about 1.2o, and shining at 4th magnitude. Visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy patch of light it resolves nicely with lower power wide-field eyepieces. This graphic simulates the view through an 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with a 50 mm eyepiece.

Click on animated graphic to see it full size. (1920x971)

Click on animated graphic to see it full size. (1920×971)

   Looking down toward the horizon from the Moon is the planet Jupiter and further toward the horizon is the star Regulus in Leo the Lion. This region of the sky is interesting in that the winter constellations are off to the west while the stars of spring are just rising – yet it is the fall season (at least in the northern hemisphere). The result of Earth revolution and the shifting of stars and constellations westward giving rise (in the east of course) to seasonal stars and constellations.

   
   
   
[centup]
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.

Jupiter and the Bees

aug19-bino   Tuesday morning, August 19th the two bright planets Jupiter and Venus, now separated by a little more than 1o still dominate the morning skies at sunrise. Jupiter will have moved to its closest to M-44, the Beehive Cluster as it comes within about 1o. For an interesting contrast the 4th magnitude star Asellus Australis one of the brighter stars in the constellation Cancer the Crab.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   This part of the early morning sky contains most of the northern hemisphere winter season stars as this graphic shows.
   
   
   
[centup]
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.

June Apogee Moon

2june-apogee_mon    Our Moon orbits around the Sun with the Earth and from our perspective on the Earth the Moon appears to circle around the Earth. However in reality the Moon orbits the Sun together with the Earth*.
   The nearly 5-day day old waxing crescent Moon reaches apogee this month on Tuesday 3 June at 4 UT (Monday 2 June at 10 pm CDT). At that time the Moon will more or less be at a distance of 31.745 Earth diameters (404,520 km or 251,357 miles) from the Earth.

   *Click here to read my 2006 Scope on the Sky column “The Real Shape of the Moon’s Orbit”. (PDF)

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Monday evening the waxing crescent Moon will be within about 7o from the open star cluster M-44, also known as the Beehive Cluster, or Praesepe from Latin for manger. The waxing crescent Moon will be shining brightly at nearly -11th magnitude while in comparison the Beehive Cluster has an overall brightness of +4.

   
   
   
   
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.

Mars and the Beehive Cluster

Click on image to see it full screen size.

Click on image to see it full screen size.

   I finally had a chance to get outside to take some pictures of Mars and the Beehive Cluster this morning. Having missed the last two mornings when Mars was alongside of the Beehive Cluster I was eager to get at least some pictures before Mars moved away from the star cluster. This morning it was sort of a race between sunrise and a steadily brightening sky and waiting for Mars to rise above the trees on the east side of my house. This picture was taken at 6 am CDT using an 18mm lens set to F5.6, 6 Seconds, and an ISO setting of 1600. The banner picture at the top of the page was taken with a 55 mm lens and the same shutter settings as before.

   
   
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Will Mars Get Stung?

Click on image to see full size.

Click on image to see full size.

   For the next few mornings look east for the planet Mars, but use binoculars or a low power eyepiece in your telescope for a more interesting view. Mars is moving eastward along its orbital path and is crosssing our line of sight as it passes between us and the open star cluster commonly known as the Beehive Cluster, or M-44 from the Messier Catalog of celestial objects. This fuzzy patch of light to the naked-eye when viewed with some magnification becomes a group of stars of near similar brightness that historically has been described as having stars scattered as if they were a ‘swarm of bees’. A simulated view with 7×50 binoculars shows the position of Mars relative to M-44 on th e9th and 10th.
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   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.