Photo of the Week. A cold full Moon rises behind
Astronomy news for the two-week period starting Friday,
February 1, 2008.
The next Skylights will appear on Friday, February 15.
This fortnight sees the
Moon swinging from waning crescent,
when it is nicely visible in the dawn hours, through its new phase
on Wednesday, February 6 (when it is not seen at all), and then to
the waxing crescent, when it will be seen in the evening hours.
The thin crescent will first be readily
visible during twilight the night of Friday the 8th. Our period
nears its end with the Moon passing first
quarter the night of Wednesday the 13th, after which we will
see a bit of the waxing gibbous. Just three
hours before formal first quarter, the Moon passes perigee,
where it is closest to the Earth. The morning of Saturday the 2nd,
the Moon will lie to the east of Scorpius's Antares.
Then take a look the morning of Monday the 4th to see the Moon
passing several degrees to the south of Venus and Jupiter, which still hang out together.
As the Moon passes new, it eclipses the
Sun. But don't bother looking for it. First, the Moon will be too
far away from Earth to cover the Sun completely (producing an "annular eclipse"), and second, the path of
annularity cuts across only Antarctica and the deep southern
Pacific. The Americas see nothing at all. But keep a date with
the night of February 20-21, when we will get a fine view of a
total eclipse of the Moon as it passes full.
just passed close conjunction the morning of February 1, Venus and
Jupiter (still prominent in southeastern dawn) are now pulling
apart, Venus sinking, Jupiter climbing. By the end of our
fortnight, Jupiter will be some 15 degrees to the west of Venus and
will rise a full hour earlier, at 4:30 AM. The two give us a fine
opportunity to see planetary
motion in action.
On the other side of the sky,
Mars transits the meridian high in
Taurus (more or less between the
Bull's horns) around 8:30 PM. With
us much of the night, it does not set until about an hour before
Jupiter rises. Well to the east of Mars, Saturn (in Leo) now rises just as twilight ends,
and crosses the meridian around 1:30 AM. Curiously, the closest
and farthest large planet to the Sun, Mercury and
Neptune, both pass conjunction with the Sun, Mercury (inferior
conjunction) on Wednesday the 6th, Neptune on Sunday the
Halfway up the sky, Orion and his
cohort are now on full evening display. Directly over his head
(and a bit to the left and right) lie Gemini and Taurus, and above them both is Auriga, the Charioteer, which holds
the most northerly first magnitude star (actually "zeroth"
magnitude), Capella, and also the
Anticenter of the Galaxy, from the Sun's point of view the position in the
sky opposite the Galactic Center in