Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

Scout Report Selection Webivore Selection SpaceCareers Selection

Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -- Full List Restored!


Photo of the Week. Morning Moon.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, February 10, 2012.

We begin with the Moon in its waning gibbous phase, which leaves the evening over to darkness. Moving along through Virgo into Libra, the Moon arrives at its third quarter on Tuesday, February 14 (helping to celebrate Valentine's Day) during daylight hours in North America. It thereafter spends the remainder of the week as an ever-slimming waning crescent. The night of Friday the 10th finds the Moon to the southeast of Mars. Then look later in the night of Sunday the 12th when the Moon passes several degrees south of Saturn and nearby Spica, the star the fainter and southwestern of the two. Near the beginning of our week, on Saturday the 11th, the Moon goes through perigee, where it is closest to the Earth.

As it will for the rest of winter and for much of spring, Venus claims the early evening sky. High to the west at twilight, the brilliant planet, which dominates all others, does not now set until 9 PM, two hours after dusk finally fades away. Following behind is the second of the planetary lights, Jupiter. To the east of Venus (you can't miss it), the giant planet does not meet up with the horizon until half an hour before midnight. As Venus goes down, it is replaced in the opposite side of the sky by Mars, which rises around 7:30 PM in a fine setting in southeastern Leo rather between Leo's Regulus and Virgo's Spica, which is course leads us back to Saturn, which comes up just before Jupiter sets. Mars then transits the meridian to the south around 2 AM, Saturn around 4:30, the bright stars and planets making a delightful sight in the morning sky.

Aside from the planets, the focus this time of year must be on Orion, which stands mightily to the south around 8:30 PM, his three-star Belt (the Arabs' String of Pearls) always striking. To the upper left is the red supergiant Betelgeuse, to the lower right the blue supergiant Rigel. Hanging from the Belt is the Sword, which encloses the famed Orion Nebula, a marker of recent, indeed ongoing, star formation. The area provides a rich field of sights for the telescopic, even binocular, visitor. Much of the constellation is a part of the "Gould Belt", a ring of bright stars somewhat offset from the Milky Way that is named after B. A. Gould, an astronomer of the nineteenth century.
Valid HTML 4.0!