One of my favorite spring, deep space objects is M44, the Beehive Star Cluster. The name comes from how the brighter stars combine to resemble a beehive hanging from a bowed tree branch. M44 is only 600 light years away, making it one of the closest star clusters to us. That also makes it relatively easy to see. It is found almost dead center in the upside down Y-shaped constellation Cancer The Crab. Cancer and M44 are dim and lie in a dark area half way between the bright constellations of Gemini and Leo. I think the Beehive is easier to see than the constellation it's in. You can see it naked-eye as a foggy grey/white patch on a black background. Once you find it, even small binoculars will treat you to a sparkling array of 30 to 40 blue and honey-yellow stars depending on how good your night color vision is. If you use a telescope, you'll see that the star cluster is much bigger. There are about 1,000 stars "buzzing around the beehive."

April astronomical calendar

April 15 (Thursday): Thin Crescent Moon Between Aldebaran and Pleiades. Look about 30 degrees above the western horizon an hour after sunset (8:30 p.m. MDT) to see this trio of bright objects. It'll make a great wide field photo for you moon lovers.

April 16 (Friday): Crescent Moon 'Cradles' Mars. Look above the western horizon from 8:30 to 11:40 p.m. MDT to see Mars nestled above the cradle of the crescent Moon. For observing sites with mountains or other obstacles in the west, you'll only be able to see this in the earlier hours as the Moon will be 35 degrees above the horizon at 8:30 p.m. and on the horizon at 11:40 p.m. By this time NASA's Ingenuity helicopter should have performed it's first flight in the martian atmosphere (scheduled for April 8).

April 17 (Saturday): Crescent Moon Now Above Mars. Same time-same horizon the next night Mars and the moon trade places. Great target on both nights for smart phones equipped with night capable cameras.

April 26 (Monday): Full Pink Super Moon. At 8:31 PM MDT, the Pink Moon (pink phlox ) will reach full phase about 10 degrees above the ESE horizon celebrating the month when these spring flowers bloom. What flowers will be blooming in your neighborhood? This will also be a "Super Moon" because it'll look about 13 percent larger at its closest point to earth during its near circular elliptical orbit.

Gary Zientara is the owner of Mount Sangre Observatory in Angel Fire.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

All comment authors MUST use their real names. Posts that cannot be ascribed to a real person
will not be moderated.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.