Photo of the Week. Golden clouds announce the start
of a new day.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, February 23, 2007.
Ever have one of those weeks where nothing much happens? But it's
not so bad, since we always have quiet contemplation of the
nighttime sky. The biggest thing is the Moon waxing
from first quarter the night
of Friday, February 23, through gibbous
toward full, which is not actually
reached until the evening of Saturday, March 3. Not all is lost,
though, as the Moon will make a very close passage just
to the north of
Saturn the night of Thursday, March 1, one well worth watching.
Then we might anticipate a total eclipse of the Moon as it passes through
its full phase the early evening of Saturday the 3rd. It will best
be seen in Europe and Africa. In North America, the Moon will rise
with the eclipse already in progress. Totality will be seen
roughly to the east of the Mississippi, while the far west will see
increasingly little of it, the west coast quite losing out.
Saturn, slow of motion and in
retrograde, is getting just a bit farther each night to the
west of Regulus in Leo. Already up by sunset, it crosses
the meridian to the south around 11
PM, while setting in mid-dawn. The big evening show, though,
Venus, which is gloriously visible in evening western twilight
and is now the classic "evening star." Each night appearing higher
and higher, the planet does not now set until nearly an hour after
twilight ends. And as winter turns to spring, its aspect will
continue to get better.
While Venus and Saturn reign over the evening hours,
Jupiter rules the morning. Now rising around 2 AM, the giant
planet is close to crossing the meridian to the south in growing
dawn. Look for Antares of Scorpius to the west of it.
Mars, still rising in growing morning twilight, remains
Early evening presents us with a spectacular winter sky, with stars so bright
even the near-full Moon can't quite wash them out. Look for mighty
Orion about half way up the
southern sky, with Gemini to the
upper left of him, Taurus above
and to the upper right. In the deep chill of winter, it's warming
to see the Summer Solstice at the
border between the latter two, the point where we will find the Sun on the first day of summer.