Skylights featured on Astronom y 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!

Greenland 12

Photo of the Week. Planet Earth: the eighth of twelve in the "Flight across Greenland," going from east to west above the fantastic glacier and a river of ice. See full resolution.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, March 21, 2014.

The beginning of the week sees the end of the waning gibbous Moon. Third quarter is passed quickly, the night of Sunday, March 23, shortly before moonrise, after which our constant companion (to many a little planet in its own right) enters the waning crescent phase. The morning of Wednesday the 26th, the Moon will make a fine sight well to the west of Venus, while the following morning it will be even better placed with the rising Moon just above the brilliant planet. The morning of Friday the 28th will provide the last easy lunar view, with the Moon, approaching new on Sunday the 30th, rising in bright twilight now well to the east of Venus . Finally, the Moon passes perigee, where it is closest to Earth, on Thursday the 27th. The nearness of perigee to the new phase will as usual boost the amplitude of the coastal tides.

As long as we are in the morning sky, admire Venus on its own. Rising around 5 AM Daylight Time, an hour in advance of "dawn's early light," the planet passes its greatest elongation of 47 degrees to the west of the Sun and (disregarding the Moon) dominates the sky until bright twilight begins to take it away. It will be with us, tracking the beginning of twilight, until August, when it will slowly begin to descend into the eastern dawn. In the evening, Venus's place is taken by Jupiter, which is already high in the western sky just after darkness descends. When done with Jupiter, which sets at 3 AM, look for the rising of obvious Mars as twilight comes to a close. Though not as bright as Jupiter, as the red planet approaches opposition to the Sun on April 8 it is now brighter than any star but Sirius. Prominent throughout the night in Virgo just northeast of Spica, Mars reaches its highest point as it crosses the meridian at 2:30 AM, just before Jupiter sets. In the middle of things, Saturn(in Libra)comes up in the southwest at 11 PM, not transiting the southern line until an hour before dawn.

With Gemini surrounding Jupiter high in the sky as evening falls and Taurus taking a dive into the northwestern sky, to the east Leo rises, crossing high to the south around midnight ahead of Virgo and Mars. To the southwest of the Lion, look for the ragged head of Hydra, the Water Serpent. The longest constellation of the sky, Hydra winds south of Leo and Virgo, finally ending to the southwest of Libra. To the northwest in mid-evening, the Big Dipper rises. Between it and Polaris twitches then tail of Draco the Dragon.
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