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May 22, 2013

CAC's Spaced Out Challenge: A Triple Planet Treat, Bees & a Peek at ISON

The last few editions have featured objects you can't really enjoy naked-eye, but that changes with a special grouping of three planets this Sunday. All you need to see the trio are your eyes and a clear western/ west-northwestern horizon.


Triplet Treat CAC challenge

With the moon full or damn close to it this week/weekend, most deep sky objects save for double stars and clusters aren't worth the hunt, particularly in urban areas. With a pair of binoculars though, you can enhance your view of the planetary meet-up, eyeing the faint moons of Jupiter for a few minutes before the trio dips below the horizon. This week is the last good one this year for spotting the largest planet in the solar system in evening skies, and your best for eyeing Mercury, the smallest. Venus will hang around a bit longer, and Saturn continues to quietly drift along in Virgo.

Co-blogger rdbrewer sent over a link teasing a first look at Comet Ison, still on track to be visible naked eye in November, courtesy the Slooh Space camera here.

A few 'rons have mentioned the late Jack Horkheimer in the spaced threads. I found a video featuring another rare trio of worlds from 1991 (hint-hint: this stuff doesn't happen that often), and, well, I can see why some of you have mentioned him. He's very, very enthusiastic:

As an added bonus, keep your eyes on the sky after the trio, and if you live in an urban area, keep your binoculars handy for one of the oldest-known and beautiful clusters in the sky, Praesepe, more commonly called the Beehive:


DSS image of M44

Finding it without a dark sky can be alitle tricky, but thankfully there are some rather bright stars than can show you the way. Those living in rural areas should be able to pick out the faint constellation Cancer, but I kept the map set for those of us in the suburbs:
Finding the Beehive

As always, for your astronomical needs be sure to hit up the Ace storefront right up their in yonder corner, check out the FULP object list for suburban/urban amateurs, clear skies to you, and keep looking up!

Next week: finding the dark secret of the swan

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posted by CAC at 09:00 PM

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