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 January 28
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Saturn in the Hive
Credit & Copyright: Jimmy Westlake (Colorado Mountain College)

Explanation: If you can find Saturn in tonight's sky, then you can also find M44, popularly known as the Beehive star cluster. In fact, with a pair of binoculars most casual skygazers should find it fairly easy to zero in on this celestial scene. Saturn is at opposition - opposite the Sun in Earth's sky - so, the bright planet rises in the east at sunset and is visible throughout the night. Near the stationary part of its wandering path through the heavens, Saturn will obligingly linger for a while in the vicinity of M44 in the relatively faint constellation Cancer. Seen here in a photograph from January 25, Saturn (lower right) is strongly overexposed with the stars of M44 swarming above and to the left. The picture approximately corresponds to the view when looking through a typical pair of binoculars. Saturn is about 64 light-minutes from our fair planet while M44, one of the closest star clusters, is around 600 light-years away.

Tomorrow's picture: auroral eruption

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