Sunday, August 30, 2009

Venus encounters the "Beehive"

One of the prettiest star clusters viewed through binoculars is M44 in Cancer, otherwise known as the "Beehive." This week brilliant Venus just misses sliding through the Beehive. On September 1 and 2, the brilliant planet passes directly south of the star cluster. Observe this with binoculars after 5:30 a.m. Compare their distances from Earth: Venus currently orbits 120 million miles — or 11 light-minutes — away and the dim stars of the Beehive lie 500 light-years from our little blue world!

Such is our view from Earth ...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mars is sliding next to a mysterious glow

Over the next several nights, Mars shines brightly in the constellation Gemini. For binocular observers, the Red Planet is positioned near a dim cluster of stars known as M35. Watch each night as the bright Mars scoots by the 2800 light year distant cluster. As the weeks progress, the planet grows brighter. Now it is about equal to the bright star in Taurus, Aldebaran.

Look low in the northeast after 2 a.m. or high in the east after 4 a.m. to see this sight.

Such is our view from Earth ...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Perseid Meteor Shower 2009

Tomorrow morning the annual Perseid Meteor Shower reaches its peak. Tonight and tomorrow night will see perhaps 60 meteors streaking across our skies. Most likely, though, far fewer meteors will be seen due to the bright third quarter moon washing out the dark sky.

After 11:30 tonight and tomorrow night, look from a dark location to the northeast. It may take a few seconds or ten minutes before you see your first meteor. Happy hunting!

Such is our view from Earth ...