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Earth shadow and Moon

Photo of the Week. From out of the Atlantic Ocean, a not- quite-full Moon rises above evening's rising Earth shadow. (This photo has been added to Moon Light.)

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 4, 2008.

We begin the week with the invisible Moon just shy of its new phase, which is reached the night of Saturday, April 5. Then watch a delightful show as the waxing crescent climbs out of evening western dusk. It will first be visible as a very thin crescent very low above the western twilight horizon the night of Monday the 7th. The following evening (Tuesday the 8th), the somewhat higher Moon makes a lovely pass just to the north of the Pleiades cluster of Taurus. Since the Moon will not be very bright at this point, the juxtaposition will be especially viewable and pretty. Binoculars will help. In the far northeast, observers can even see the crescent covering some of the stars. The night of Wednesday the 9th finds the fattening crescent up and to the right of Aldebaran and the Hyades. Two days after new, the Moon passes perigee, where it is closest to the Earth, resulting in especially high tides at the coasts.

The evening is enhanced by the fine visibility of Mars as it moves noticeably through central Gemini to the southwest of Castor and Pollux. Already to the west of the meridian as the sky darkens, the red planet is so far north that it does not set until around 2:30 AM Daylight Time just a few minutes before much brighter Jupiter lofts itself above the southeastern horizon. The giant of the Solar System then dominates the morning to the east of the Little Milk Dipper of Sagittarius, remaining visible well into modest twilight. In a dark sky, with the Moon out of the way, Jupiter presents a fine sight just to the east of the brightest part of the Milky Way. More or less between Mars and Jupiter, still in Leo to the east of Regulus (where it will reside for some time) lies Saturn, which transits rather high to the south around 10:30 PM Daylight.

The great winter constellations that surround Orion (Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, Canis Minor and Major) now slip ever so slowly to the west and into twilight. Riding down the ecliptic and the Zodiac to the east of Gemini lie Cancer (the Crab), Leo (the Lion, with Saturn), and, holding the autumnal equinox, Virgo (the Maiden). Then pick them up in the morning to find Libra (the Scales), Scorpius (the Scorpion), and Sagittarius (the Archer): and we are back to Jupiter.
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