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.

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.