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Jupiter can guide you to the Beehive

While the moon is still a thin crescent, use the dazzling planet Jupiter to locate the constellation Leo. An imaginary line from Jupiter through the bright star Regulus will enable you to locate the Beehive star cluster in the constellation Cancer. Binoculars transform this wispy cloud-like smudge of light into a sparkling array of stars.

Tonight for May 12, 2016

Tonight – May 12, 2016 – it’ll be hard to miss dazzling planet Jupiter. In fact, Jupiter is very prominent on these May, 2016, evenings – even on a moonlit night. Meanwhile, you’ll have difficulty seeing the constellation Cancer the Crab on this night, because it’s faint … and the moon shines right in front of it.

However, once the moon drops out of the evening sky in the last week of May, 2016, Jupiter will serve as your guide to the Beehive star cluster – also known as Messier 44 – the crown jewel in the constellation Cancer the Crab.

As good fortune would have it, you can hop to the Beehive star cluster by using Jupiter and the star Regulus for months to come.

And what the heck? Despite the moon, you still might be able to make out the Beehive cluster through binoculars tonight.

This year, in 2016, you can use the planet Jupiter and the star Regulus to locate the constellation Cancer. In years when Jupiter is not in this part of the sky, stargazers typically look for Cancer in between Regulus and the Gemini stars, Castor and Pollux.

In years when Jupiter is not in this part of the sky, stargazers typically look for Cancer in between Regulus and the Gemini stars, Castor and Pollux.

The Beehive cluster, although faintly visible to the unaided eye as a smudgy haze of light on a moonless night, is best viewed through binoculars or a low-powered telescope. Note the stars Castor and Pollux, plus the star Procyon to the west of Cancer in the chart above, and the star Regulus to the east of Cancer.

Then on a dark, moonless evening, locate the Beehive star cluster.

By the way, look for the moon to pair up with Regulus on May 13, and then Jupiter on May 14.

Bottom line: This evening – May 12, 2016 – the moon shines in front of the constellation Cancer the Crab. Once the moon drops out of the evening sky, you can use the planet Jupiter and the bright star Regulus to find Cancer’s famous Beehive star cluster.

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