Venus Gets Bees In Her Bonnet

Watch for Venus to pair with the Beehive star cluster tonight through Wednesday evening. The Beehive is one of the nearer clusters to Earth at 577 light years. Because of its low altitude you won’t see it with your naked eye, but point your binoculars at Venus and the cluster will pop into view 1.5° to its left tonight. Tomorrow, they’ll be closest at just ½° apart. Stellarium

Venus met up with the crescent moon over the weekend. Tonight through Wednesday, it gets cozy with the Beehive star cluster in Cancer the Crab. To see it you have to wait until later in twilight when Venus will be rather low in the western sky and use binoculars. Focus on Venus and look to its left for the star cluster.

The Beehive is a loose group of stars more than a degree across all born from the same gas cloud some 600-700 million years ago. Wikisky

The combined motions of the Earth and Venus will bring the goddess planet and the cluster closest tomorrow evening, when they’ll be separated by just a half a degree. In 1609, Galileo was the first person to look at the Beehive in a telescope and saw 40 stars. Before that time lots of people knew it was there but could only see the cluster as a misty puff of light. Until the telescope was invented humanity didn’t have a clue what it really was.

Galileo’s sketch of the Beehive cluster in Cancer from 1609. “Praesepe” is another name for the group and means manger or cradle.

2 Responses

  1. kevan Hubbard

    Yes I’d say with low powered kit ,like binoculars,you can see about 40 stars in m44 but I’ve often wondered under very dark skies and with keen eyes is it possible to split m44 into some individual stars?after all the human eye can split m45 and alcor/mizar.I’ve tried but never got beyond a misty patch,but I normally see m45 as a misty patch too!

    1. astrobob

      Hi Kevan,

      The stars in M45 are much brighter than those in M44 and also spread further apart. Most people can make out at least 5 stars in the Pleiades. M44 is more compact and its stars are considerably fainter. I’ve tried to see stars with the naked eye in M44 and the best I can do is a hint of granulated texture. Getting back to M45, do you wear glasses? If all it looks like is a misty patch, you might consider getting a new prescription. You definitely should be seeing stars there.

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