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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, belongs to 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 elusive.

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.
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