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Winter Dawn

Photo of the Week. While we appreciate the return of spring, a winter dawn has its own beauty.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 6, 2007.

Our Moon starts off our week in its waning gibbous phase. Passing through third quarter on Tuesday, April 10, about the time of moonset in North America, it then spends the remainder of the period thinning as a waning crescent. Watch as the waning gibbous plows through Scorpius. The morning of Saturday the 7th finds the Moon passing just south of Antares, while the following morning it glides six degrees to the south of Jupiter. The quarter takes place far to the south in eastern Sagittarius. Finally, the morning of Friday the 13th, the crescent will lie to the west of Mars, which might allow you to find the planet in growing dawn. The fat side of the crescent will point to the east right at it.

As brilliant as western evening's Venus is, it's hard to believe that it keeps getting better and better, this current Venusian season about as good as it gets. Shining at magnitude -4, eleven times brighter than Sirius (the sky's brightest star), the planet illuminates a darkened sky, not setting until after 10:30 PM Daylight Time. Moving eastward, we find Saturn. On the Cancer-Leo border to the west of Regulus, the planet makes a sort of transition by passing the meridian to the south just as twilight ends around 9 PM. Then it's Jupiter's turn. Watch for the giant planet (which is just beginning its westerly retrograde motion) rising half an hour before local midnight (12:30 AM Daylight) to the northeast of Antares. About half an hour before Jupiter transits the meridian (still in twilight), Saturn finally sets. Elusive Mars, as noted above, hangs out in dawn's light.

While we in the north glory in our "ancient" constellations, with some "moderns" (only a few hundred years old) thrown in, the deep southern hemisphere, which is invisible from classical lands, must make do with only moderns. They range from the renowned (famed Crux, the Southern Cross, and Centaurus, holder of Alpha Centauri, the nearest star) to a set of small figures that hover near the southern celestial pole that include Volans (a Flying Fish), Musca (the Fly), Chamaeleon (just what you'd expect), and Apus, the fabled Bird of Paradise.

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