Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2006 June 22
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Planets, Bees, and a Donkey
Credit & Copyright: Chris Schur

Explanation: The heralded alignment of wandering planets Saturn and Mars with the well-known Beehive Cluster took place last weekend on Saturday, June 17. Recorded in dark Arizona skies on that date, this view finds Mars above and right of Saturn - the brightest celestial beacons in the scene - with the Beehive cluster of stars (M44) at the lower right. The two planets appear in conjunction separated by just over half a degree. But about another half a degree along a line joining the two and continuing towards the lower left lies the third brightest object in the image, giant star Asellus Australis. Asellus Australis is also known as Delta Cancri, a middling bright star 136 light-years away in the constellation Cancer, the Crab. Of course, this star's Latin name translates to "Southern Donkey".

Tomorrow's picture: east of Antares

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