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. Colors of Earth.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, March 18, 2011.

Skylights will next appear April 1, 2011.

Full Moon takes place on Saturday, March 19, near noon in North America such that the evenings of Friday the 18th and Saturday the 19th bracket the phase itself, Moonrise on Friday occurring just before sunset, then on Saturday, just after. One hour past full, the Moon goes through its perigee, when it will be closest to Earth, the combination bringing especially high and low tides to the coasts. The Moon then enters the waning gibbous phase, which lasts until third quarter on Saturday the 26th, which takes place around sunrise with the Moon near the meridian. The rest of our period is occupied with the waning crescent, which will make a fine sight with Venus the mornings of Wednesday the 30th (with Venus well down and to the left of the crescent), Thursday the 31st (Venus now down and a bit to the right of it), and Friday, April 1 (Venus well to the right). Earlier in the week, the night of Sunday the 20th, look for the Moon to pass several degrees south of Saturn.

While Jupiter is gone, we still have evening's Mercury, which passes its greatest eastern elongation relative to the Sun on Tuesday the 22nd and does not set until the end of twilight; Saturn, which now rises in the east BEFORE twilight draws to a close (just northwest of the star Spica); and morning's Venus, which now rises as twilight BEGINS (near 5:30 AM Daylight Time, evening twilight lasting until around 8:45 PM). Crossing the meridian to the south around 2 AM Daylight Time, Saturn is far into the west by the time Venus appears. In lesser news, Uranus passes conjunction with the Sun on Monday the 21st, while Venus and Neptune undergo a close conjunction on Saturday the 26th.

The BIG news of course involves astronomical spring, which starts with the passage of the Sun across the Vernal Equinox in western Pisces at 6:21 PM CDT (7:21 EDT, 5:21 MDT, 4:21 PDT) on Sunday the 20th, which by unusual coincidence is just over a day after full Moon and perigee, the three all occurring within 30 hours of one another. On the day of the equinox, the Sun will (within small limits) rise due east, set due west, will be up for 12 hours and down for the same. The north pole also sees sunrise (actually a bit before equinox passage), while the south pole sees sunset (actually a bit after).

Bound for the equinox, the Sun entered Pisces on March 12, and will travel there until mid-April, when it moves into Aries, rendering the classic figure of the Ram still visible in the west after sunset. Next up is Taurus with its Pleiades and Hyades star clusters, which lie to the northwest of mighty Orion.
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