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.