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


Photo of the Week.Late afternoon sunset over the waters.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, March 6, 2009.

The Moon waxes through gibbous the early part of the week, reaching full phase on Tuesday, March 10, during mid-evening, so we can watch it at its best. It then fades through waning gibbous during the week's remainder. At almost exactly the same time as the Moon passes full, it also passes directly south of Saturn, the two sort of making an upside down exclamation point. Earlier in the week, on Saturday the 7th, our satellite goes through perigee, where and when it will be a bit over 5 percent closer than the average of 384,400 kilometers (238,900 miles).

Saturn, which has been coming on the scene for months now, hits its apex as it passes opposition with the Sun on Sunday the 8th, when it rises at sunset, sets at sunrise (hence is up all night), and crosses the meridian to the south at midnight (explaining why it and the full Moon rendezvous so nicely). Look for it southeast of Regulus in Leo. The early show, however, still belongs to Venus, which, though setting earlier (around 8:30 PM), dominates the twilight western sky. On the other side of the sky, Jupiter, now rising at the beginning of morning twilight, is becoming increasingly visible. In contrast to the glory of Venus and Saturn, the two outer planets make invisible news, as Uranus passes conjunction with the Sun on Thursday the 12th, and Neptune comes into conjunction with Mars on Saturday the 7th, Mars still in bright twilight and almost impossible to see.

Comet Lulin makes its way this week through Cancer and Gemini. As the week begins, it is just south of Cancer's Beehive Cluster. Passing into Gemini the night of MOnday the 9th, the comet will be seven degrees south of Pollux (Gemini's brightest star) toward the end of the week. Unfortunately the bright Moon will get in the way and virtually blot it out.

Even under full or nearly full Moonlight, you can still admire Taurus, the mythical Bull. Look to the northwest of Orion for Aldebaran and the vee-shaped Hyades (the Hunter's Belt more or less pointing up and to the right toward the star). Farther to the northwest, look for one of the most charming of stellar sights, the Pleiades -- Seven Sisters -- Cluster.
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