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.

2003 April 3
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Jupiter in the Hive
Credit & Copyright: Tun?Tezel

Explanation: If you can find planet Jupiter 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 easy to zero in on this celestial scene. It should be easy because after sunset Jupiter presently rules the night as the brightest "star" overhead. Now near the stationary part of its wandering path through the heavens, Jupiter will obligingly linger for a while at a spot only a degree or so southeast of M44 in the relatively faint constellation Cancer. Seen here in a photograph from March 28, Jupiter (lower left) is strongly overexposed with the stars of M44 swarming above and to the right. The picture approximately corresponds to the view when looking through a typical pair of binoculars. Jupiter is about 30 light-minutes from our fair planet while M44, one of the closest star clusters, is around 600 light-years away.

Tomorrow's picture: hexagon in the west

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