BBC Sky at Night Magazine

Venus and the Beehive

BEST TIME TO SEE: 11–15 September from 03:30 BST (02:30 UT)

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Beautiful Venus was a stunning evening twilight object for much of the first half of 2020. On 3 June, it lined up with the Sun, reaching a position known as inferior conjunctio­n. This placed it in line with the Sun on the earthward side of its orbit. It then rapidly re-emerged into the morning sky where we find it this month.

On 1 September, Venus is located near to the twin stars Castor (Alpha (a)) and Pollux (Beta (b) Geminorum). It rises two hours before the end of astronomic­al darkness and shines at around mag. –4.0 for much of the month. A telescope shows its 19 arcsecond disc to be

59% illuminate­d on 1 September, reducing in size to 15 arcseconds and 71% illuminate­d by 30 September.

Between 11 and 15 September, Venus passes south of the beautiful Beehive Cluster, M44, which is located at the heart of Cancer, The Crab. On 11 September, the planet lies 3.3˚ to the southwest of the Beehive’s centre. This reduces to 2.6˚ on 12 September and 2.3˚ on 13 September when both objects appear at their closest.

On the mornings of 14 and 15 September, Venus gradually nudges further to the east ending up 1.2˚ southeast of mag. +3.9 Delta (d) Cancri on the morning of the 15th. A thin 14%-lit waning crescent Moon likes just north of the Beehive on the morning of the 14th.

Any of these morning views will provide an interestin­g opportunit­y to record the pair, both with binoculars, a wide-field telescope or photograph­ically. Continuing its movement east, Venus will eventually end up in Leo, close to the star Regulus (Alpha (a) Leonis).

The pair are set for a very close conjunctio­n on the morning of 3 October, appearing just 12 arcseconds apart on that date.

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M44, the Beehive Cluster
Venus
▲ Venus and a 14%-lit waning crescent Moon near M44 on the morning of 14 September
Moon M44, the Beehive Cluster Venus ▲ Venus and a 14%-lit waning crescent Moon near M44 on the morning of 14 September

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