Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured three times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 .

Gibbous Moon

Photo of the Week.. The waxing gibbous Moon shows off its heavily cratered surface and its maria, the lava-coated impact basins that make the face of the "Man in the Moon." Mare Imbrium is highlighted at upper left, the basin cut in half by the "terminator," the lunar sunrise line. Note crater rims and mountains catching the first rays of sunlight. Photo courtesy of Mark Killion.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, March 26, 2004.

The Moon begins the week as a fat waxing crescent, passes through its first quarter the night of Saturday March 28 (near sunset, with the Moon near the meridian to the south), then finishes the week in its waxing gibbous phase (as in the photo of the week). Friday the 26th sees our companion near apogee, where it is farthest from the Earth. The night of Saturday the 27th, the Moon will be to the northwest of Saturn , while the following night finds it to the northeast of the ringed planet, which now plies southern Gemini. The night of Thursday April 1 (no fooling), the Moon will appear to the northwest of Jupiter, which treads in retrograde fashion in southern Leo, the planet transiting the meridian just after 11 PM. Saturn on the other hand is now in the western half of the sky past the meridian as twilight fades.

Both of the "inferior" planets, those closer to the Sun than we are, Mercury and Venus, take center stage. On the morning of Monday the 29th, Mercury passes its greatest elongation to the Sun, lying 19 degrees to the east of it. The nights of Sunday the 28th and Monday the 29th will thereby be the best for viewing of the little planet, which will appear low above the western horizon in evening twilight. Quite by coincidence, only 5 hours later, Venus passes its own greatest eastern elongation to the Sun at an angle of 46 degrees, making it about as high in the western sky as possible. Between roughly now and its "greatest brilliancy" (the planet still getting brighter as it approaches the Earth) on May 2, Venus will not set until after 10:30 PM, giving us an unusually long and good look at our nearest planetary neighbor. At maximum elongation, the inferior planets lie at the tangent points of their orbits as seen from Earth, giving us a telescopic view of half their daylight sides, half their nighttime sides, making them look like "quarter moons." Not yet done with its planetary show, Venus will pass just to the south of the Pleiades star cluster the night of Thursday, April 1, the two making an unusually grand sight. Between Venus and Saturn, Mars coincidentally glides to the north of the Taurus's Hyades.
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