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.

Moon The Sisters

Click on graphic to see it full size.

Click on graphic to see it full size.

   Sunday morning, September 14th, before the Sun rises look toward the eastern horizon for the waning gibbous Moon to be rising in between two open star clusters, the Pleiades and the Hyades. Both of which are part the constellation of Taurus the Bull. As the banner graphic at the top of the page shows the moon is approximately 7o from either open star cluster.

   
   
   
[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.

Mars, Moon, and the Bees

Click on image to see full size.

Click on image to see full size.

   Monday morning, 2 September, look toward the eastern horizon and you will see many familiar stars and constellations as well as the planets Mars, Jupiter, and the very thin 26.6 day old waning crescent Moon. The stars and constellations, however, are those of the northern hemisphere winter evening skies and include the 6 constellations making up the winter hexagon asterism: Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, Canis Minor, and Canis Major.
Click on image to see it full size.

Click on image to see it full size.

   However, the focus right now is a little lower and above the eastern horizon. There you will find the constellation of Cancer the Crab. This sort of inverted Y-shaped star pattern is not only the current location for Mars and the Moon, it is also where you will find one of the best binocular or low power telescope eyepiece celestial objects. This is the open star cluster M-44, or more commonly known as the Beehive Cluster. Estimated to be about 500 light years distant the star cluster shines at a relatively bright 4th magnitude. This brings it just into the ‘seen as a fuzzy or smeared patch of light’ range.
   In my suburban location with the lights of the Kansas City metropolitan area mostly toward the west and north I am able to see M-44. This of course, is after being outside for a few minutes at least allowing the eyes to dark adapt. With my 10×50 binoculars or with the telescope I keep in my truck, a 4.5 inch reflector (Edmund Astroscan), M-44 looks great.

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

Moon and Star Clusters

Click on image to see full size.

Click on image to see full size.

   Before sunrise on Friday morning 30 August look toward the east for the group of stars and constellations making up a familiar part of the northern hemisphere winter skies. Part of this group, temporarily, is the waning crescent Moon as it works its way eastward. The Moon will be within the field of view of 7×50 binoculars from two open star clusters. M-35 is an open star cluster that is approximately 2800 light years distant and contains several hundred stars shining with a combined brightness of around 5th-6th magnitude.
   Just one-half degree from M-35 is the much fainter star cluster NGC-2158.
Click on image to see full size

Click on image to see full size.

This is a much smaller and fainter group of stars that are estimated to be around 11,000 light years distant and has an apparent magnitude of between 8 and 9.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information.

3 Amigos!

3planets-text   This evening, Wednesday 22 May, at sunset or shortly after look toward the west northwest horizon to see a trio of planets – Jupiter with Mercury and Venus lower to the right. All three planets will be close enough to be seen in the same field of view of binoculars through the end of this month as this animated graphic shows.

   What is going on? Jupiter is getting closer to the Sun – setting earlier each evening. This is due to the Sun’s apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic which in reality is the Earth’s orbital motion. Since the Earth orbits faster than Jupiter the Sun will catch up with Jupiter as is happening over the next weeks. Meanwhile Mercury and Venus both orbit faster than the Earth and certainly Jupiter so they are able to quickly catch up and pass Jupiter in a manner of days. Both of the inner planets are moving eastward currently.

   Looking Ahead: Starting with 1 June, Mercury and then Venus will pass through a part of the sky near the feet of the Gemini Twins. In this area are several open star clusters that may be visible with binoculars given good sky conditions. Easily seen with low power telescopes with a low magnification or wide field of view eyepiece.

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

Jupiter and Waxing Crescent Moon

9 p.m. CDT

9 p.m. CDT

   This evening the Moon once again begins its phase cycle – well actually it started a couple of days ago, on the 10th with a new Moon. Tonight after sunset the 4-day old waxing crescent Moon is close to the planet Jupiter and the two open star clusters in Taurus, as the banner graphic at the top of this page shows. These open star clusters are the Pleiades, marking the shoulder of the Bull, and the v-shaped Hyades forming the face of Taurus. This graphic shows the Moon and Jupiter as seen with a pair of 7×50 binoculars. The Moon will be about 3 degrees from Jupiter.

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

Oh – Orion

The starry skies around Orion

   The Orinids Meteor shower, at least for me, is now history. The sky was very clear however with the ambient light from Kansas City to the south and west the skies had a limiting magnitude of around 2 to 4 depending on which direction I faced. I saw 7 meteors during a 2-hour time span between 3:30 and 5:30 this morning. All were at least 1st magnitude, and none were captured on film despite running the video for nearly the entire time.

Jupiter, the Hyades, and Pleiades

   However I did manage to capture the area around Orion from Taurus over to the Gemini Twins. In the picture above, Orion’s right knee, the star Saiph, is seen between the leaves and branches of a tree. Near the top of the picture is bright Jupiter and the two open star clusters, the Hyades and the Pleiades. This picture is a closeup of Jupiter and the two star clusters.

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