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!


Photo of the Week. Summer is coming.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, March 30, 2012.

Skylights now resumes its normal weekly schedule.

Our week is a bit of an odd one that spans the entirety of the waxing gibbous from first quarter on Friday, March 30 (with the Moon nicely risen and visible in the afternoon) to full Moon the morning of Friday, April 6. The night of Monday the 2nd, the growing Moon will appear just to the east of Regulus in Leo with Mars in line to the other side of the star. Then look the following night (that of Tuesday the 3rd) to see the Moon pass well south (by nine degrees) of the red planet. The night of Thursday the 5th the Moon approaches Saturn, appearing well to the west of the planet and its attendant Spica.

There are few words one can say for Venus. Though past greatest elongation, it is still brightening as it approaches Earth, and does not set until an almost-amazing 11:30 PM Daylight Savings Time. And it gets better. Watch the night of Tuesday the 2nd when Venus grazes the Pleiades of Taurus, appearing as a creamy gemstone set just to the south of the cluster's sparkling blue stellar jewels. For a good view of this most unusual phenomenon, use binoculars.

Admiring the whole affair from way down below Venus will be very bright Jupiter, which now sets around 10 PM Daylight Time, but still well after of the end of twilight. But that is not all. Less than an hour after Jupiter sets, Mars, now still near its brightest, in league with the brightest of stars, crosses the meridian to the south in Leo just to the east of fainter Regulus. Farther east, Saturn, still northeast of Spica, rises around 8:30 DST, less than an hour before the end of twilight. The ringed planet then transits the meridian about 2 AM DST.

Orion and his gang, Lepus to the south, Gemini and Taurus to the north, are moving off the evening stage to renew themselves for next year. Entering now are Leo and Virgo with their planets (Mars and Saturn) and their first magnitude stars (Regulus and Spica). Look to the southwest of Regulus to see the irregular head of Hydra (the Water Serpent), to the southeast of which lies the constellation's luminary, lonely Alphard. High and nearly overhead toward midnight will be the Big Dipper.
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