Venus looks so bright at the moment, but, hey you’ve seen it before.
The Moon is waning so reducing to a delicate crescent. Seen it.
Star clusters? Nah—you’re not into astronomy.
All three of them together? Now we’re talking!
There’s something about the human brain that adores seeing celestial sights that are otherwise merely interesting together shining as one.
That’s what happens this Sunday, September 13 and Monday, September 14, 2020 when bright planet Venus—the brightest object in the night sky aside from the Moon—will shine very close to both a delicate crescent Moon and the Beehive Cluster.
Here’s what’s going to happen, when, and where:
Sunday, September 13, 2020: A crescent Moon approaches Venus and the ‘Beehive Cluster’
If you can wake an hour or so before sunrise and you’ll see a beautiful tableau rising in the eastern sky today.
The most obvious object will be a 20%-lit crescent Moon, with the bright star Pollux in the constellation of Gemini shining above it.
Below will be the bright planet Venus—in its current apparition as the “Morning Star”—and next to it the “Beehive Cluster.”
It’s just out of reach of the naked eye, but bright and obvious in binoculars.
Monday, September 14, 2020: A crescent Moon joins Venus and the Beehive Cluster to form a triangle
Here comes the sight you’ve been waiting for—all three objects tightly together in the same small patch of sky.
Above the eastern horizon an hour before dawn will be the beautiful sight of Venus forming a triangle with a 13%-illuminated Moon and the Beehive Cluster (M44).
Astrophotographers are sure to be out in force.
What is the Beehive Cluster?
Also known as both “Praesepe” and M44, the Beehive Cluster is an open cluster of stars about 520 light-years distant in the constellation of Cancer . It’s one of the nearest open clusters to us and looks stunning in binoculars—it’s one of the finest open clusters around.
It’s on the ecliptic—that path of the Sun through the sky—so the planets pass nearby, as does the Moon, whose orbit is only 5º inclined to the ecliptic.
The Beehive Cluster appears to be about 60 stars in a pair of binoculars, though a dozen or so are standout bright.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.