Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -- Full List Restored!


Photo of the Week. Waxing gibbous just past first quarter.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, January 6, 2012.

Welcome to Skylights' first full week of the New Year with hopes for all good things in 2012.

And we start with a quiet week, with the full Moon reached the night of Sunday, January 8. The evenings of Friday the 6th and Saturday the 7th we thus see the Moon rising in the fat waxing gibbous phase, while during the remainder of the week the Moon fades in the waning gibbous while still shedding considerable Moonlight upon the land. Given the way the planets are spread across the sky, the Moon in its easterly progression against the stars meets up with none at all.

Leaving our lunar companion, we begin the evening parade with Venus. Now setting more than an hour past the end of twilight, the planet makes a brilliant impact in the southwest as darkness settles in. The night of Thursday the 12th, it passes just over a degree south of Neptune. Then as twilight draws to a close, you can admire the second brightest of planets, Jupiter, which crosses the meridian to the south just about as twilight ends, then spends the rest of the night in the western sky until it sets around 1:30 AM. Next in the progression is Mars. Rising in southeastern Leo about 10 PM, the red planet does not transit the meridian until 4:30 AM, well over an hour before dawn begins to light the sky. Saturn, though, remains a morning object. The ringed planet, rising still to the northeast of Spica in Virgo just a hair before Jupiter sets, finally crosses to the south about as it fades into morning's light.

By the time the sky darkens, the Great Square of Pegasus will have moved over into the western half of the sky. With early Moonlight fading away, directly south of the Square's center find the Circlet of Pisces, the ring representing part of the western of the two Fishes. The remainder of the constellation then wraps dimly to the south and east around the celestial Horse. For stark contrast then look to the east to find Orion with his three-star Belt, the figure so bright that Moonlight hardly bothers him at all.
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