Skywatchers this week should check out super-bright Venus glide past one of the most famous and bright star clusters in the entire heavens – an event that occurs only once every 8 years.
Making for a pretty photo op the cosmic odd couple will be at their closest on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, separated by only 0.5 degrees – equal to the width of the full moon disk. It amazing to think that while the planet is about 100 million km from Earth, the beautiful Pleiades star cluster sits 400 light years away!
Also known as the Seven sisters, the Pleiades is one of the better known sky targets for binoculars and telescopes, but with Venus right next door – both objects will easily fit into view under low magnification. Look towards the high western sky after sunset – waiting maybe at least 30 minutes or more – and you can see with the naked eye, the hazy patch of light next to Venus. THe pair will set around midnight affording plenty of time to soak in this amazing sky spectacle. This rich open cluster actually has more than 40 young stars as members – no more than 10 million years old - and most can be seen with binoculars and small telescopes. But the naked eye will still pick out the brightest five to seven of its stars.
If you have never seen this beautiful deep sky object, then let Venus be your guide.
Skywatching EXTRA: When out looking at the Venus -Pleiades match-up Tuesday and Wednesday nights, spin around and look towards the southeast for the waxing gibbous moon. It will be making a tight triangular formation with orange hued planet Mars on the upper left and to its right, the 77 light year distant bright white star Regulus – the heart of the mythical Leo the lion constellation. Here’s a star map on what it will look like….
Tags: Pleiades, Venus
Posted in Planets, Stargazing, stars | 1 Comment »