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!

billowing clouds

Photo of the Week. Billowing clouds.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, January 30, 2015.

Back to fortnights for a bit: thanks for your patience. The next skylights will appear January 30, 2016.

The next skylights will appear February 13, 2015.

We begin with the Moon deep into its waxing gibbous phase, which ends at full Moon on Tuesday, February 3, about the time of moonrise in North America, the Moon also gliding several degrees south of Jupiter. The Moon thereafter fades in the waning gibbous through third quarter the night of Wednesday the 11th shortly before moonrise, the phase of the moment followed by a bit of the waning crescent. The night of Friday January 30 finds the Moon in eastern Taurus smack between Orion and Auriga and to the west of Gemini, which it will invade the following evening when it will pass just north of second magnitude Alhena (Gamma Geminorum). Look the morning of Thursday the 12th to find the Moon just to the west of Saturn. By the following morning they will have flipped places, the Moon then to the east of the ringed planet and north of Antares. The Moon goes through apogee, where it is farthest from Earth, on Thursday the 5th.

The early evening sky hosts quite a show as brilliant Venus stands ever higher in the west, moving closer and closer to much more modest but still bright reddish Mars, the two preparing for a lovely conjunction on February 21. During our fortnight Mars steadily sets at 8 PM, while night by night Venus climbs toward it. On the other side of the sky, the second brightest of planets, Jupiter, rises near the Leo-Cancer border around sunset, the giant planet passing opposition with the Sun on Friday the 6th, when it crosses the meridian to the south at midnight and sets as the Sun comes up. Dimming, Comet Lovejoy climbs to the west of Perseus. Amidst all this activity, Venus invisibly passes just 0.8 degrees south of Neptune the morning of Sunday the first of February.

Not that the media will let you, but on Monday, February 2, don't forget to celebrate Groundhog Day, a "cross-quarter day" that marks the halfway point from winter to spring.

Brilliant constellations flock the evening winter sky. Going counterclockwise from the north, the "Winter Six" is made of Auriga (with Capella), Gemini (Castor and Pollux), Canis Minor (Procyon), Canis Major (Sirius and Adhara), then swinging north, Orion (Betelgeuse and Rigel), and Taurus (Aldebaran). In contrast, between Auriga and Polaris at the North Celestial Pole, there is nothing much but modern Camelopardalis, the Giraffe, which you'll not see in bright moonlight.

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