2019, September 24: The Moon and Beehive Cluster


September 24: As the sky begins to brighten in the morning, about 90 minutes before sunrise, look east for the waning cresent moon.  It is 25.0 days old (past the New phase) and 25% illuminated.  Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins, are above the moon and Procyon is to the moon’s right.  Regulus is far below the moon.

With a binocular look below the moon for a small smattering of stars.  They look like diamonds on the velvet of the darker sky.  This is the Beehive Cluster.  The cluster is about 500 light years away and it contains about 350 stars, a few dozen of which can been seen with a binocular.

If you have sharp eyesight, look for the cluster without a binocular. To the unaided eye, the cluster resembles a cotton ball.

The cluster is also known as the Praesepe (Manger).  More formally it is known by its catalog numbers M44 or NGC 2632.

Tomorrow morning, September 25, the moon is below the cluster and still above Regulus.  Take a look!

(As an aside, look at the moon through the binocular.  On the night portion, notice that it is slightly illuminated.  This is from sunlight reflecting from the nearly full Earth, as seen from the moon, gently illuminating the night portion of the moon — Earthshine.)

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