Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured five times on Earth Science Picture of the Day:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5

Moon and Venus

Photo of the Week. The waning crescent Moon rather distantly visits twilight Venus the morning of February 24, 2006.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, March 31, 2006.

No April fool here, all good stuff.

The Moon begins our week in its waxing crescent phase. Passing through first quarter on Wednesday, April 5, it continues in the waxing gibbous. The night of Friday, March 31st, the lunar crescent will be visible low in the west northwest. It then has a busy week. Climbing upward, it makes a beautiful pass through (for eastern and central North America) and then beyond the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus the night of Saturday, April 1 (really!). The following evening, the Moon will make a fine triangle with Mars and Aldebaran, at which time the red planet will lie almost directly above the star as seen from North America. Then on the night of Monday, April 3, the Moon will make yet another triangle with Mars and Elnath, Beta Tauri, with the bright star Capella off and to the right. Then a bit later, watch, as the Moon (because of its orbital tilt well north of the solar ecliptic) glides just south of Pollux in Gemini the night of Wednesday, April 5th, and then north of Saturn the evening of Thursday, the 6th.

Saturn, the great current evening planet, ceases retrograde on Wednesday, April 5th, and thereafter resumes its slow easterly trek through the constellations of the Zodiac, each one holding the planet for about two years. Find it now southwest of the Beehive cluster in Cancer. As Saturn now transits the meridian to the south early, around 7:30 PM, it is slowly being replaced by much brighter Jupiter, which rises around 9 PM still firmly ensconced within eastern Libra. Bright and redly beautiful, Mars, only slowly falling behind orbiting Earth, still does not set until after midnight. If you wait out the night, you can see brilliant Venus rising just before 4 AM in advance of the onset of twilight.

As Sirius and Canis Major slip to the west, Argo, the ship of the Argonauts, takes its place, its bright stars -- far to the south -- assuming no clear pattern. The huge ancient ship now comes in three pieces, Carina the Keel, Puppis the Stern, and Vela the Sails. Only part of Puppis is easily seen from most of mid-North-America (to the left of and below Canis Major), while Carina, which holds Canopus, the second brightest star, and Vela are mostly well out of sight below the southern horizon for the northern part of the continent.
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