Photo of the Week. Perspective makes clouds appear
to ascend from the horizon like a vibrant celestial tree.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, March 23, 2007.
Skylights resumes its normal weekly schedule, but is presented two
days early. Last week's is still
Beginning the week as a fat crescent, the Moon passes its first quarter
early, on Sunday, March 25, about the time of Moonrise in North
America. Watch as it rises ever higher in the daylight eastern
sky. It then spends the rest of the week waxing in the gibbous phase towards full,
which it will hit next April 2.
As it travels, the brightening Moon will make a fine passage to the
north of Saturn
the night of Wednesday, the 28th, close enough to actually occult
the planet as seen from northern Britain, Scandinavia, and the
Atlantic. The next night, that of Thursday the 29th, it's Regulus's turn, the Moon passing by
about the same angle to the north of the star, Regulus also
occulted as seen by roughly the same parts of the world.
Continuing its dramatic ascent relative to the Sun, not setting until
just after 10 PM Daylight Time, brilliant Venus
quite dominates the early evening sky. As it sets, look to the
south to see Saturn crossing the meridian still to the west of Regulus in
Leo. Moving slowly retrograde, the ringed planet has almost, but not quite,
made it back into Cancer. To the
west of Saturn lies the Beehive
Cluster, which the planet passed last year, but which the
bright Moon renders difficult to see.
In the morning hours, you can admire
Jupiter, which now rises around local midnight and transits the
southern meridian in mid-dawn. To the east of the giant planet
lies Mars, whose rising for the next month will continue to track
the onset of morning twilight. The event impossible to witness, Mars will pass only a
degree south of much more distant and fainter Neptune
on Sunday the 25th. Though lower than Mars, Mercury
is more than twice as bright, and might be glimpsed in brightening
As Orion flees to the west, he is
being chased by one of the dimmer constellations of the sky, the
modern figure of Monoceros, the
Unicorn, which lies to the east of him. Most of the constellation,
which contains a number of the riches
of the Milky Way, lies between
the two Dogs, Canis Minor and Canis Major. Below Canis Major float
Puppis and Carina of Argo, the
ship of the argonauts, which now sails into the sunset as well.