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 .


Photo of the Week.. Spring warmth is on its way...

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 1, 2005.

Skylights' week begins with the Moon in its last (third) quarter (on Friday, April 1st, Happy April Fool, but all truth here) and continues with it waning through crescent, the glow of earthlight on the nighttime side becoming ever more prominent as the Moon rises ever later and descends toward the eastern dawn horizon. The week ends just short of new Moon, that phase reached on Friday the 8th, when there will be an eclipse of the Sun whose path threads its way over the South Pacific and into northern South America. The southern US (south of a line between New York and San Diego) will see a partial eclipse beginning about 3:45 in the afternoon Central Time (more information next week). The waning crescent will appear down and to the right of Mars (in Capricornus) the morning of Sunday the 3rd, down and to the left of it the following morning. The Moon then passes to the south of Uranus on Tuesday the 5th and south of Mercury on Thursday the 7th, that event effectively invisible.

The giant planets now dominate the evening. Saturn (still in Gemini, where it makes a fine show with Castor and Pollux) now transits the meridian to the south just as the Sun sets. By the time the ringed planet is visible in twilight, it will have shifted into western skies. By 2 AM it is gone. Much brighter Jupiter, which passes opposition with the Sun on Sunday the 3rd, is with us all night, rising at sunset, setting at sunrise, and crossing the meridian at midnight. Almost any sort of optical aid will reveal up to four bright satellites, in order outward from the planet Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto (their order as viewed depending on where they are in their orbits).

Though the winter constellations are slipping away, there is still a bit of time as twilight ends to admire Orion and his surroundings, notably Gemini (marked by Saturn) and to the west of it, Taurus, with its pair of clusters, the Pleiades and Hyades. By mid-to-late evening, Leo dominates the sky to the south. Between Leo and Gemini, look for dim Cancer, the Crab, which is best marked by a box of stars within which is the naked-eye "Beehive" cluster, equally well known as the "Praesepe." Beneath it look for the winding figure of Hydra, the Water Serpent, from east to west the longest constellation of the sky.
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