Moon near Venus, Mars, Castor, Pollux and Beehive May 22-24
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. Be sure to catch this lovely sight before they set around midnight.
Moon near Venus and the twin stars
On the evening of May 22, 2023, the waxing crescent moon, shining faintly with earthshine on its darkened portion, will be near the brightest planet, Venus. It’ll be a beautiful sight!
Then the next evening, May 23, 2023, the waxing crescent moon will lie between Venus and Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini the Twins. You’ll easily notice the bright stars Castor and Pollux because they’re close together in the sky. However, these two stars aren’t really twins. Pollux shines with a bright white light and is a little brighter than its “twin”. And Castor appears as a golden star.
The steady red light above the twin stars is the planet Mars. Mars was at its best in December of 2022, but it’s fading more each month as we race away from it in our orbits around the sun. Read more about Mars in 2023.
Moon visits Mars and the Beehive
Then, on the night of May 24, 2023, the waxing crescent moon will pass by Mars and the Beehive star cluster.
If you’ve never seen the Beehive Cluster – Messier 44 or M44 – at the heart of the constellation Cancer the Crab, now’s your chance. The moon will lead you right to it on May 24. On that evening, the waxing crescent moon will pass about four degrees, or the width of eight full moons, from the Beehive Cluster. The cluster itself is large, spanning 1 1/2 degrees, or three moon widths of the sky. And stay tuned, because in June, Mars will pass right through the Beehive, and then later in the month Venus will pass about a degree from the star cluster.
A closer look at the Beehive star cluster
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 1,000 stars in the Beehive. It’s possible to see the cluster without optical aid, but binoculars make it easier. 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. Also, observing from a dark-sky site offers you a better view of this glittering cluster of stars.
The stars in this cluster lie about 577 light-years distant. 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, but only after you’ve enjoyed the star cluster. The moon is bright enough that it’ll ruin your night vision and you’ll see fewer stars. Focus your binoculars along the terminator on the moon, 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 should 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 glowing.
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 evenings of May 22, 23 and 24, 2023. Beautiful!
Want to see more night sky events? Visit EarthSky’s night sky guide
Our charts are mostly set for the northern half of Earth. In order to see a precise view from your location, try Stellarium Online.