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Skylights featured three times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 .


Photo of the Week.. Winter sunrise glory; see a close-up.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 8, 2005.

We begin the week on Friday April 8 with the new Moon. By the evening of Saturday the 9th you might find the slim crescent in western twilight. Over the week it will wax through crescent to first quarter, the phase reached on Saturday the 16th, which is next week's territory.

At new, the Moon is "between" us and the Sun. The lunar orbit, however, is tilted by five degrees, so the Moon usually passes to the north or south of the Sun instead of directly across it. On Friday the 8th, however, the Moon will indeed pass over the Sun to give us a solar eclipse. The eclipse path, where the Moon is seen exactly in front of the Sun, runs from just east of New Zealand, across the south Pacific Ocean, and then into northern South America. It's an odd one. Since the Moon is rather near apogee, its farthest point from the Earth, the eclipse starts as annular (the Moon not quite fitting over the Sun and leaving an annulus of sunlight), then goes to total, and then back to annular. The southern US and Mexico will see a partial eclipse, visible south of a line from New York through central Illinois to San Diego. The exact times depend on location. Starting times range from about 5 PM Central Daylight Time near the northern limit to 4:30 PM in the far southern US. (Add an hour for EDT, subtract two for PDT). If you are "in the zone," do NOT look directly, as the Sun is far too bright. Instead, project sunlight through a pinhole onto a piece of paper and view the image that way (do NOT look through the pinhole!).

In less exciting news, Mars passes conjunction with Neptune (Mars 1.2 degrees to the south) on Tuesday the 12th. In Capricornus, Mars rises marginally earlier each morning, now about 4 AM (Daylight). Much better is the evening with Saturn (in Gemini) high in the west as the sky darkens and much brighter Jupiter to the southeast in Virgo, Jupiter transiting the meridian to the south about 12:30 AM Daylight Time.

The sky's north rotation pole is rounded by two famed constellations, Ursa Major (the Great Bear) and Cassiopeia (the Queen), the former now in ascendancy in early evening. Counterparts in the far southern hemisphere are Crux (the Southern Cross), the bright stars of Centaurus (including Alpha Centauri, the closest star to the Earth), and following behind, much lesser known Triangulum Australe, the Southern Triangle, an equilateral triangle of stars much larger than its northern mate, Triangulum (the Triangle), which is seen by northerners to rise in autumn evenings below Andromeda.
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