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.
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.
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.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.