Moon near Venus, Mars, Castor, Pollux, Beehive on May 24
A close gathering of bright planets, stars and the moon is an eye-catching sight. Over the course of three evenings (May 22-24, 2023), the moon will pass Venus, Castor, Pollux, Mars, and the Beehive star cluster. EarthSky’s Marcy Curran explains more in the video above. Be sure to catch them before they set around midnight!
Moon visits Mars and the Beehive
The faint, but beautiful Beehive – aka Messier 44 or M44 – lies at the heart of the faint constellation Cancer the Crab. The moon can lead you to it this evening. The moon will pass about four degrees, or the width of eight full moons, from the Beehive cluster.
Notice the moon’s location on May 24. And notice the locations of Mars and Venus. Then come back when the moon has moved away to get the best views of the Beehive itself. A dark sky will also help.
The Beehive is a large but faint star cluster in our skies. It spans some 1 1/2 degrees, or about three moon-widths, in our sky. It’s composed of some 1,000 stars … but you won’t see these many stars with the eye alone, especially not when the moon is nearby. Wait for a dark sky and examine the Beehive with binoculars. Many stars will pop into view.
The Beehive is a favorite target for astrophotographers. And stay tuned, because, in June 2023, Mars will pass right through the Beehive. Later that month Venus will pass about a degree from the star cluster.
Both will be great photo opportunities!
A closer look at the Beehive star cluster
How about seeing the Beehive on May 24? Even though the moon is in a crescent phase, it’s bright enough that you’ll need to use binoculars to see some of the Beehive’s 1,000 stars. It’s possible to see the cluster without optical aid in a dark moon-free sky. But binoculars might let you see it when the moon is nearby. To get a better view of the cluster, position the moon just outside the field of view. This will help more of the stars come into view.
The stars in this cluster lie about 577 light-years away. When you gaze at the Beehive, think about how many planets might reside among these 1,000 stars. We already know of at least two.
While you’re there, enjoy the moon
Also, study the moon with your binoculars. Just be aware that the moon is bright enough to ruin your night vision (so try for the Beehive first, before examining the moon). Focus your binoculars along the moon’s terminator line, the dividing line between day and night. This is where the mountains, valleys and craters come into stark relief and the moon takes on more of a 3-D appearance. People are generally amazed by their first sight of the moon through binoculars or telescopes.
Even without binoculars, you might still be able to see the lovely glow of earthshine on the moon. Earthshine is the light reflected from the dayside of Earth onto the moon’s darkened portion. As darkness falls, the earthshine portion of the moon will begin to glow.
Do you have a photo to share? Submit it at EarthSky Community Photos. We sure enjoy seeing them.
Bottom line: Watch for the waxing crescent moon near Venus, the twin stars of Castor and Pollux, Mars and the Beehive star cluster on the evening of May 24, 2023. Beautiful!
Our charts are mostly set for the northern half of Earth. In order to see a precise view from your location, try Stellarium Online.