National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Science & Technology
Saturn, the Moon and a Swarm of Stars

A celestial swarm of stars will hover near a honey-colored Saturn for the next several months. Sky watchers will see the ringed planet together with the Beehive cluster, or M44, a group of stars that also make their home in the Milky Way galaxy.

Facing East: Saturn, Moon and Beehive cluster a few hours after sunset.
Facing East: Saturn, Moon and Beehive cluster a few hours after sunset.

Saturn and the fainter cluster of stars can be spotted below the moon on Feb. 10. On Feb. 11, Saturn will be visible above the moon. And at sunset on Feb. 12, the full moon will rise to join Saturn, a pale golden glow in the eastern sky. A couple of hours after sunset, the full moon will have climbed a third of the distance above the horizon. You'll be able to spot Saturn above the moon even from the city. The bright stars of the constellations Leo and Gemini will frame the celestial scene.

The Beehive cluster, named M44 in the 18th century, has enchanted amateur astronomers for thousands of years. Known to the ancients, the Beehive cluster is one of the few star clusters visible to the unaided eye. Galileo first trained his telescope on the starry cluster in the 1600s. He was amazed to resolve 40 individual stars through his eyepiece. You'll see perhaps a dozen loosely clustered stars in a space the size of the full moon near Saturn with your unaided eye. With binoculars or a telescope, you'll see one hundred or more stars in a cluster more than twice the size of the moon.

The Beehive cluster
The Beehive cluster.

The Beehive Cluster lies about 600 light-years away. By comparison, Saturn is about 70 light minutes distant, and our moon is 1 light second away.

This celestial beehive will be visible near Saturn for many months to come. In late June, Mars and Saturn have a close conjunction with M44 near the western horizon just past sunset.

Last Updated: 24 February 2011

Science Features
Astronomy Features
Technology Assessment Reports
Sungrazing Comets


Best of NASA Science
NASA Science Highlights
Technology Features
Lectures & Discussions

Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writers: Courtney O'Connor and Bill Dunford
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 24 Feb 2011