Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -- Full List Restored!


Photo of the Week. It came from outer space. Once part of the core of an asteroid broken up in an ancient collision (and then further broken by a violent passage through the Earth's atmosphere), this 16 kilogram (35 lb) piece of Africa's Gibeon iron meteorite is part of the just-opened Goose Kaler Memorial Meteorite Collection at Staerkel Planetarium in Champaign, IL. Known to the locals of what is now Namibia, the vast numbers of Gibeon fragments were first found by westerners around 1836. There is no record of its fall.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 12, 2013.

Nearly the whole week is occupied with the waxing crescent Moon, which will range from very thin and not far from the horizon the evening of Friday, April 12th (as our week opens), to first quarter, which takes place on the morning of Thursday the 18th. By the time the Moon is seen that afternoon and evening, it will be very slightly in the waxing gibbous phase. Can you tell? On Monday the 15th our companion goes through its apogee, where it is farthest from the Earth on its modestly elliptical path. Early in the week, the crescent will present a series of fine sights as it approaches and passes through Taurus. The twilit evening of Friday the 12th, the setting Moon will lie below the Pleiades, while the following evening look for it passing between the Pleiades and the Hyades clusters with the first magnitude star Aldebaran up and to the left and bright Jupiter above. The night of Sunday the 14th will feature the growing crescent close to the giant planet (at least as seen from Earth). And the good views just continue when the Moon passes through the next constellation of the Zodiac, Gemini, and on the evening of Wednesday the 17th places itself to the south of Castor and Pollux.

The three terrestrial planets are all pretty much out of sight. Mercury rises in bright morning twilight. Venus has just passed superior conjunction with the Sun (on the far side of it) and will not be readily visible in evening twilight for some time yet without special effort, a flat horizon, and binoculars. And Mars is really gone, as it passes through conjunction with the Sun on Wednesday the 17th, and will remain for a time invisible in morning twilight. That leaves us with the two giants of the Solar System. Now exclusively an evening object seen to the west as darkness closes in, Jupiter disappears below the northwestern horizon around 11:30 PM Daylight Time, while in the other direction, Saturn comes up above the southeastern horizon when the sky is still in evening's light. Look for it to cross the meridian to the south about 2 AM. At the far end of the Solar System, o-k4.html">Pluto begins its very slow retrograde motion (westerly against the stars of northern Sagittarius) as our week opens.

In late evening, the Bowl of the Big Dipper in Ursa Major passes high, nearly overhead. To the south (and a bit west) of it roars Leo the mighty Lion, notable for the Sickle-shaped curve of stars that ends in Regulus and marks his head (modern little Leo Minor on his back). South (and again a bit west) of the Sickle, find the luminary of Hydra (the Water Serpent), second magnitude Alphard, while skimming the southern horizon will be Vela, the Sails of the Ship Argo.
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