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.