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 -- Full List Restored!

Orange sky

Photo of the Week.Autumn orange.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, March 28, 2014.

The Moon begins our week as an ultrathin waning crescent that will be barely visible rising in eastern twilight the morning of Saturday, March 29, a day or so before it passes new on Sunday the 30th. It next appears as an ultrathin waxing crescent setting in western twilight the evening of Monday the 31st, following which it will grow as it sets ever later and heads toward first quarter the evening of Sunday, April 6th. There are no passages with the planets except for an invisible one with Mercury the night of Friday the 28th. We do, though, have a fine appearance against the background of Taurus. The evening pf Wednesday, April 2, the Moon will appear below the Pleiades star cluster, while the following evening, it will make a fine sight near the Hyades cluster just down and to the right of first magnitude Aldebaran. The evening Friday the 4th then finds the Moon up and to the left of the group.

The evening sky is graced by bright Jupiter, which is just past the meridian, near overhead, as darkness falls. The mighty planet then descends the northwestern sky, finally setting about 2:30 AM Daylight Time. Next up is Mars. Now rising in evening twilight, by the time the sky is dark, Mars is up in the southeast. Crossing the meridian just after local midnight, by the time the sky begins to brighten, it is well into the southwest. In retrograde, on the night of Sunday the 30th, Mars passes five degrees due north of Virgo's Spica, about the same angular separation as the front bowl stars of the Big Dipper. Note the color contrast. Mars is reddish from the iron in its soil (technically its "regolith" since there is no organic matter), while the star Spica is blue white as a result of its high temperature of around 20,000 degrees (it's actually double). Following Mars is Saturn, which rises about 10:30 PM still in Libra (where it will stay for some time). As the morning sky brightens, Mars, Saturn, and then brilliant Venus (which rises just before morning twilight) make something of a crude dotted line marking the ecliptic, the apparent solar path.

As evening's Taurus descends to the horizon, Orion follows, along with the rest of the winter gang. Far to the north, Auriga, looking more like a giant arrow, lasts the longest. By late evening, Leo is crossing the meridian as we await the stars of summer, announced by the rising of Vega in the northwest. North of Leo, the Big Dipper circles the pole, while in between Leo and the Dipper's Bowl is a faint flat triangle that represents the modern constellation of Leo Minor, the Smaller Lion.<
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