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2020, September 14: Venus, Moon Visit Beehive

Crescent Moon, Venus, and Aldebaran, July 17, 2020

2020, July 17: The crescent moon, Brilliant Venus, and Aldebaran shine from the eastern during early morning twilight.

2020, September 14: Ninety minutes before sunrise, look for the moon and Venus near the Beehive star cluster. The moon is 5.0° to the lower left of Venus.

The crescent moon and Morning Star Venus pass close to the Beehive star cluster.

by Jeffrey L. Hunt

Moving among the dim stars of Cancer, brilliant Morning Star Venus passes the Beehive star cluster during mid-September.

2020, September 14: Through a hazy sky, the moon is 5.0° to the lower left of Venus.

Venus has appeared in the morning sky since mid-June, and it is there into the new year.  It continues to step eastward compared to the starry background in its morning sojourn.

The planet continues to rise over 3.5 hours before sunrise.  By the beginning of morning twilight that starts about 100 minutes before sunrise, Venus sparkles above the skyline in the eastern sky.  Like the other easily visible planets, Venus appears as an overly bright star, the brightest “star” in the sky.  It even outshines Sirius, nighttime’s brightest star.

2020, September 14: The moon is 5.0° to the lower left of Venus.

All the planets appear to move along the ecliptic, an imaginary line that is the plane of the solar system.  The ecliptic makes a great circle around the sky through the familiar zodiacal constellations. Mars, shining in the southern sky during morning twilight, is among the stars of Pisces, while evening planets Jupiter and Saturn are in eastern Sagittarius.

Cancer is a dim constellation between the Gemini Twins and Leo, where Venus moves at month’s end.

The Beehive star cluster is a distant clump of stars that are similar to the famous Pleiades (Seven Sisters), but they are farther away, appearing dimmer to our eyes.  The cluster is also known as the Praesepe (Manger).

The Beehive star cluster looks like a fuzzy cloud to the unaided eye. Its best view is through a binocular, as it spills outside a telescope’s eyepiece.

The cluster is a phase of the life of a star where astronomical theory predicts that stars are formed in bunches.  This cluster has about 200 stars; about a dozen appear through a binocular.

On the morning of September 14, look about 90 minutes before sunrise for brilliant Venus and the lunar crescent that is 12% illuminated.  They are 5.0° apart. The star cluster is 2.7° to the upper left of Venus; that’s about half the Venus – Moon gap.  The lunar crescent is 4.6° to the lower left of the cluster.  The star Delta Cancri (δ Cnc on the chart above) is 0.9° to the upper left of Venus.

Venus is slightly closer to the Beehive on the morning of September 13 and the moon is above the scene.  See the detailed notes below for more specific directions.

Photographers can catch the scene with a camera that has time exposure settings and a tripod mount or another means of holding a steady camera. Exposures from 1 to 5 seconds yield satisfactory results.  Exposures that are longer reveal Earthshine on the moon, sunlight reflected from Earth’s clouds, continents, and oceans that gently illuminate the nighttime moonscape.

The detailed notes that follow provide more specifics:

2020, September 15: The crescent moon and Venus in the morning sky.
2020, September 15: The moon is in the east before sunrise. The thin crescent moon is 6% illuminated.

Here is a daily summary about the planets during September.

2021, October 5: Skinny Moon, Evening Planet Pack

October 5, 2021: Before sunrise, a very thin moon is visible in the eastern sky.  The evening planet pack – Evening Star Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – are visible at the same time after sundown.

2021, October 3:  Lunar Slice, Evening Planet Pack

October 3, 2021:  Before sunrise, the thin crescent moon is in the eastern sky, to the lower left of Regulus.  After sunset, the planet pack – Evening Star Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn – shine brightly.

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