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.Warm weather, blue sky.

Astronomy news for the two-week period starting Friday, March 20, 2009.

We begin our fortnight on the first day of spring, as at 6:44 CDT on Friday, March 20, the Sun crossed the celestial equator at the Vernal Equinox in Pisces, when it rose due east and set due west, giving us (more or less) equal days and nights. Until it again crosses the equator at the Autumnal Equinox in Virgo on September 22, it will be in the northern celestial hemisphere.

Spring begins with the Moon in its waning crescent phase, as it heads toward new on Thursday the 26th. It then moves to the other side of the Sun and sky to be seen as an evening waxing crescent that culminates in the first quarter on Thursday, April 2. Both waxing and waning crescents will present some fine sights. The morning of Sunday the 22nd, look in twilight for the Moon just up and to the right of Jupiter (which now rises around 5 AM Daylight Time), and then the following morning for the pair to have reversed their positions, the Moon also invisibly passing north of Neptune. Then the morning of Tuesday the 24th finds the thinning crescent just above Mars, the planet still difficult to see in growing dawn. During the evening hours the waxing crescent brackets the Pleiades in Taurus. Look to the west the evening of Sunday the 29th to see the crescent below the cluster, then the following evening to find it above the cluster.

The fine evening display that Venus has put on for us now comes to an end. As our two-week period begins, the planet sets just before twilight is over. Rapidly disappearing from view, Venus then passes inferior conjunction with the Sun on Friday the 27th, the planet a rather remarkable eight degrees to the north of the solar disk. It will then slowly become visible in the morning sky, where it will put on another fine display that will last most of the rest of the year. Three days after the Venusian conjunction, Mercury does just the opposite by passing through superior solar conjunction, to the far side of the Sun. In the middle of all this, Saturn holds center stage, the planet, well up in the east in southeastern Leo as the sky darkens, crossing the meridian to the south around midnight Daylight Time.

With the start of Spring, the winter constellations begin to leave us, Orion now well over to the west at the end of twilight, the vee-shaped head of Taurus the Bull pointing more or less downward toward its setting. Well to the northwest Auriga the Charioteer rolls along, seeming to chase Perseus into twilight.
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