Skylights featured three times on Earth Science
Picture of the Day: 1
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.