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!

Greenland 10

Photo of the Week. Planet Earth: the fourth of twelve in the "Flight across Greenland," going from east to west above the fantastic glacier and a river of ice. See full resolution.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, February 14, 2014.

Skylights now resumes its usual weekly schedule. Thanks again for your patience. And Happy Valentine's Day.

The Moon diminishes this week in the waning gibbous phase from full, which is passed as we open on Friday, February 14th (perfect for Valentine's Day), the Moon close to Regulus in Leo. It's heading toward third quarter, which will be reached during the day on Saturday the 22nd. During our week, the waning gibbous mixes it up with Mars. Look the morning of Wednesday the 19th to see the Moon to the southwest of the red planet (and just to the west of Spica), then the next morning when the Moon will have flipped to the other side, shining to the southeast of Mars. Later on, the Moon does the same to Saturn, the morning of Friday the 21st appearing due west of the ringed planet, the following morning due east of it.

Four of the ancient planets are distributed across the sky. Only Mercury, which passes inferior conjunction with the Sun (on this side of the Sun) on Saturday the 15th, is missing. We begin with the most westerly, Jupiter, which in early evening appears high to the east (set beautifully to the southwest of Castor and Pollux in Gemini). It then crosses the meridian to the south around 9 PM, and sets in the northwest an hour before dawn. Mars is next, rising to the southeast in Virgo about an hour and a half after Jupiter transits the meridian. The red planet does its own transiting to the south just before Jupiter goes down. Then it's Saturn's turn, the ringed planet rising to the southeast in Libra shortly past midnight and transiting in dawn's light. Last but hardly least is unmistakable Venus, which rises in the southeast an hour before twilight begins and passes greatest brilliance for its current morning appearance on Saturday the 15th.

Orion continues to dominate the early evening, with boxlike Lepus (the Hare) below him. The triangle that makes the modern constellation of Columba (the Dove) is even further down. To the southeast of the Hunter shine the bright stars of Canis Major, the larger hunting dog, while even farther to the south and east lies the huge three-part figure of Argo, the Ship, made of Vela (the Sails), Puppis (the Stern), and Carina (the Keel), the latter featuring Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky. Fleeing off to the west are the constellations of the Andromeda myth, the southernmost of which is Cetus, the Whale or Sea Monster, its roundish head well to the west of Orion.
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