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

Bare tree

Photo of the Week. Winter brings crackling blue skies.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, January 14, 2011.

Skylights now resumes its normal weekly schedule. Thanks for your patience and best to all for the New Year.

This is the week of the full Moon, whose glorious beauty blots out the stars, the exact phase reached on Wednesday, January 19. It (the Wolf Moon, the Winter Moon, the Deep Snow Moon) is preceded by a longish run of the waxing gibbous and followed by a brief view of the waning gibbous, third quarter not passed until January 26. With the Sun now somewhat to the east of the Winter Solstice in Sagittarius, this full Moon, opposite the Sun, will be found gliding nicely to the east of the Summer Solstice in classical Gemini, and thus at midnight will appear very high in the northern-hemisphere sky. The night of Saturday the 15th finds our companion in central Taurus, roughly between the Pleiades and Hyades (though the lunar glare will make them hard to see), while the night of the full Moon Gemini's Castor and Pollux point to the southeast right at it (depending on the time of night). Moving between Jupiter and Saturn, the Moon sadly undergoes no planetary passages.

Speaking of which, though Jupiter is still nicely with us, you have to be sure to look increasingly earlier, as the giant planet now sets by around 10 PM. Until then, it rides gloriously (now to the east of Uranus) in the western sky. On the night of the full Moon, that of Wednesday the 19th, it coincidentally passes just over a degree south of the Vernal Equinox in western Pisces. Though the gap between Jupiter-set and the rising of Saturn is slowly narrowing, the ringed planet still comes up about an hour and a half after Jupiter disappears. Look for it nicely to the northwest of Spica in Virgo, roughly between it and Porrima farther to the northwest. Nothing, though, quite prepares one for Venus. Rising around 4 AM, the brilliant planet passes 8 degrees north of Scorpius's Antares the night of Saturday the 15th, the color contrast between the planet and the red supergiant quite obvious.

By 10 PM, Orion, rules the sky. Central to northern winter, the great Hunter is surrounded by Taurus and Gemini to the north, Canis Minor and Major (his hunting dogs) respectively to the east and southeast, by Lepus (the Hare) to the south, and by Eridanus, the meandering River, to the southwest.
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