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Mars in the Beehive

After passing through conjunction in June, Mars is making a welcome appearance in the morning sky on its way to opposition next May.

Those people with a good eastern horizon, and better weather than I've been experiencing recently, may be interested in observing Mars as it passes the Beehive Cluster (Messier 44) in Cancer. Over the next couple of days Mars will be rising around 02:50UT, about 2 hours before the Sun, and by 04:00UT will be approximately 10 degrees up in the east north-eastern sky. Mars will shine at magnitude 1.8 with a disc diameter of 3.7 arcsec. The Beehive consists of around 200 stars ranging in magnitude from 6 to 14 and covers 1 degree of sky. Although it is an easy naked eye object when seen high up in a good dark sky, it is unlikely to be a naked eye object at this low altitude in a brightening morning sky. Nevertheless, a reasonable aperture telescope should show some of the brighter cluster members and imagers may be able to capture the event.

The attached chart shows the position of Mars from August 19 to 23 as it passes the cluster.

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