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!


Photo of the Week. Spectacular sunset.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, February 27, 2015.

The next skylights will appear March 13, 2015.

The two week period spans the full Moon, our bright neighbor more or less blotting out the stars. We begin with the Moon in the waxing gibbous phase just past first quarter; full phase, with the Moon opposite the Sun, is hit on Thursday, March 5, around noon in North America. It thus rises a bit shy of full the evening of Wednesday the 4th, a bit after that Thursday night. After fading through the waning gibbous phase, it passes third quarter on Friday the 13th, roughly around noon and about the time of moonset. We'll have a fine view of it that morning. The Moon passes apogee, where it is farthest from Earth, just ten hours before full, its slight extra distance (just over five percent above average) notably weakening the usual full Moon high tides at the coasts.

The night of Monday the 2nd, the waxing gibbous visits Jupiter, gliding around five degrees south of the giant planet, and then the following evening more of less tucks itself between Jupiter and fainter Regulus in Leo. Just before its third quarter, on the morning of Thursday the 12th, look for the Moon just above and to the left of the other giant planet, Saturn, both set immediately to the northeast of the three- star head of Scorpius and above the first magnitude red supergiant at the Scorpion's heart, Antares.

Venus dominates the western evening skies. There is no mistaking it. Having passed its conjunction with Mars on February 21, Venus is climbing upward above the much dimmer red planet, which reliably still sets at 8 PM, while Venus-set lingers past the end of twilight by a good hour. The brilliant planet will just keep getting better and better, not disappearing back into dusk until mid-summer. Toward the east find also-bright Jupiter, which transits the meridian to the south in late evening well before midnight, the planet near the Leo-Cancer border to the west of Regulus, as noted above. Shortly after midnight Saturn rises. For fans of the distant planet Uranus, Venus passes just a tenth of a degree north of it on Wednesday the 4th, while Mars does the same on Wednesday the 11th, though with three times the angular separation.

The eye seems to catch long strings of stars. Draco, the Dragon, winds between the Dippers (the Big One climbing the early evening northeastern sky), while Hydra, the Water Serpent (the longest of all constellations), slithers south of Leo and Virgo. Streaming off into evening twilight is Eridanus, the River, which ends far south of the celestial equator in brilliant Achernar.

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