Photo of the Week.Clouds float under a deep blue sky.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 3, 2009.
We start the week with the Moon just past its
first quarter, which it hit last Thursday, April 2. During
most of the week, it will grow through the waxing gibbous phase and then culminate at
full phase the morning of Thursday, April 9,
shortly after Moonset in North America. The near-rising Sun, the Earth's shadow cast upon the western
sky, and the full Moon setting will all
make for a fine sight. We then see just a bit of the waning gibbous before the start of
Skylights' next week.
With the Sun just past the Vernal
Equinox in Pisces, this full
Moon (the "Grass Moon," "Egg Moon," "Planter's Moon") will be just
past the Autumnal Equinox in Virgo and just south of the celestial equator. We also see the
opposite of autumn's "harvest Moon" effect, when the ecliptic is tilted so as to
bring us lots of near-full Moonlight in early evening. With the
evening ecliptic now tilted in the east at sunset at a high angle,
the waning gibbous will quickly disappear from the early evening
While the Moon is gibbously waxing, take a look in the middle of
the week as it plows through Leo.
The night of Saturday the 4th, the Moon will appear rather well to
the west of Regulus and the
Sickle of Leo, while the following evening it will be just to the
south of the star. The night of Monday the 6th, it will then pass
a few degrees to the south of Saturn.
Venus is sadly gone from the evening sky,
but is now glorious low in the east in morning twilight. Mercury and Mars are not readily visible, which leaves the rest of the
the two giant planets, Saturn and Jupiter. Well up in the east at sunset, the ringed
planet now crosses the meridian to the
south around 11 PM Daylight Time. Jupiter can then be seen low in
the southeast before sunrise, the planet now rising about half an
hour before dawn begins to light the sky. In "invisible news,"
Pluto (in far northwestern
retrograde, or westerly, motion on Saturday the 4th.
With Taurus (to the west as the
sky darkens), Gemini, and Leo
(holding Saturn) dominating the northern Zodiac, we sometimes forget about
poor dim Cancer stuck in between
the latter two. Sometime when the Moon is out of the way, look
within its faint stars to find one of the fine open clusters of the
sky, the Praesepe, or Beehive,
cluster, known as well as