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Photo of the Week.. Land, sea, and sky blend
together to make our beautiful Earth.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, January 21, 2005.
Having rolled through full last Tuesday, January 25, our Moon
begins the week deep into its waning gibbous
phase and heading toward its third quarter,
which it will pass the night of Tuesday, February 1, about the time
it is seen to rise in North America. The remainder of the week
sees it as a waning crescent.
As it descends through Virgo, Libra, and then Scorpius, the Moon will be seen to pass just south of
morning of Monday, January 31, then will position itself to the
northwest of Antares the morning
of Thursday the 3rd and to the southeast of the star the following
morning, Friday the 4th. Jupiter and Antares will actually be
occulted by the Moon, though not for residents of North America
(Jupiter in the south-central Pacific, Antares in parts of Europe
Speaking of Jupiter, it is the "big guy's" week, as the giant
planet, which dominates the Solar System (except, obviously, for
the Sun), begins its
retrograde motion (to the west against the stellar background)
on Wednesday the 2nd as the Earth prepares to pass between it and
the Sun. Jupiter's
proximity to Spica in Virgo (the
planet just to the northwest of the star) will make the movement
easy to follow: note how the two will separate farther from each
other, the planet now rising about an hour before midnight. While
admiring morning's Jupiter, look to the southeast before dawn for
which has moved easterly to a position northwest of Sagittarius. Neptune
invisibly makes news too as it passes conjunction with the Sun on
Thursday the 3rd. The early evening still belongs to Saturn, which
is well up in the northeast in Gemini at nightfall, the planet crossing the meridian
to the south about as Jupiter rises in the southeast.
Finally, keep your binoculared eye out for Comet Machholz as
it moves north of the bright stars of Perseus.
The eye loves to pick out streams of things, and stars are no
exception. Around the north celestial
pole winds a long string of stars that represent Draco, the Dragon. In the Spring,
the longest constellation in the sky, Hydra, the Water Serpent, slithers its way across the
celestial equator toward the southeast. In winter, we have Eridanus, the River, which flows from
the star Cursa (just northwest of
Rigel in Orion) to the west before turning and flowing to the
south, where it ends in brilliant Achernar. Having few bright stars,
the constellation is often rather lost against the brilliance of
the other winter constellations, but is well worth a look. As do
many stars, Cursa serves two constellations. Though really
belonging to the River, it is also in myth "Orion's footstool,"
upon which the Hunter rests his weary left foot.