Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured three times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 .

Sea and sky

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 Jupiter the 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 and Asia).

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 Mars, 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.

Happy Birthday to the Star of the Week, now seven years old.
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