Photo of the Week. A sunset pathway stretches to a
seemingly infinite horizon.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, January 5, 2007.
As Skylights resumes its normal weekly schedule, Happy New Year to
Skylights begins 2007 with the Moon in its waning gibbous phase, our ever-constant
companion passing through its third quarter on
Thursday, January 11. A day before the quarter, the Moon passes apogee,
where it is farthest from the Earth in its monthly round. Early in
the week the Moon takes on Saturn,
appearing to the west of the planet the night of Friday the 5th,
and then to the east of it the following night when it will also be
just barely to the north of Leo's
Regulus. The morning of the
Thursday the 11th, the Moon will then be seen to the west of Virgo's Spica, while by the following morning
it will have flipped to the other side. (The Moon will occult, or
cover, both stars, Regulus as seen from far northern latitudes,
Spica as seen from far southern. The Moon also clips Saturn as
viewed from the far north).
Jupiter is now beautifully visible in the morning southeastern
dawn sky in Ophiuchus just to the east of Scorpius and a few degrees to the north of the
Scorpion's luminary, Antares.
Formal conjunction took place on Thursday the 4th. Almost
impossible to see, Mars is far down and to
the left. It's still
Saturn that steals the planetary show, however, as the ringed
planet now rises just before 8 PM to the west of Regulus. By 3 AM
they are high to the south, and by dawn have slipped
into the west. While
Venus is now nicely visible in bright southwestern evening twilight,
setting just before the sky fully darkens,
Mercury is entirely gone, as it passes superior conjunction
with the Sun on Sunday
the 7th. Keep looking though for Venus, whose visibility will
improve markedly as the month rolls on.
With a little luck, you might get to see
Comet McNaught low
in the southwest after sundown.