Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured five times on Earth Science Picture of the Day:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5

Antarctic Moon

Photo of the Week. A first-quarter Moon (its direction reversed from that seen from the northern hemisphere) hovers above Antarctic waters, the cold sea filled with ice floes. Though the picture was taken at 1:15 AM, the Antarctic summer is filled with light from a near-circumpolar Sun. (Lemaire Channel/Pleneau Island, 65 degrees south, 62.5 degrees west, courtesy of Caroline Badger.)

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 14, 2006.

For most of the week, our Moon wanes in it gibbous phase, finally passing third quarter on the last night, Thursday, April 20, rather well before Moonrise in North America. Be sure to watch the night of Friday the 14th when the just-past-full Moon will be just to the west of Jupiter, with Zubenelgenubi (one of our favorite star names) rather invisibly in between them. The following night the Moon will be well to the east of Jupiter, while the morning of Monday the 17th sees the Moon passing just south of Antares in Scorpius. The Moon will actually occult the star as seen from southern South America. Such occultations can be used to measure the angular diameters of stars, though Antares has been studied so thoroughly that the event is not terribly important.

All following times are "Daylight." Now rising in the southeast at 9 PM, Jupiter (in Libra) dominates the late evening sky. To the west of it lie both Saturn and Mars. Saturn, slowly moving through Cancer still near the Beehive Cluster, transits the meridian at sunset, and by the time it is visible has moved into the western sky, its northerly position delaying its setting time until 3 AM. Mars, to the west of Saturn, moves into Gemini just north (about 1.5 degrees) of the Summer Solstice. About as far north as it can get, the red planet still does not set until local midnight, or 1 AM. Stay up late, or get up early, and you can admire the brightest of all planets, Venus. Still shining at minus fourth magnitude, and visible in a clear daylight blue sky, the planet rises just about as morning twilight commences (4:30 AM). Halfway between Venus-rise and Sunrise, Mercury pokes its head up, though it is so close to the twilight horizon it is difficult to see. On Tuesday the 18th, Venus passes just 0.3 degree to the north of Uranus.

The Lyrid meteor shower (the radiant in Lyra) grows during the late-week morning hours. Though not maximizing until the morning of Saturday the 22nd (with a dark-sky rate of 10-15 meteors per hour), you may still see a few.

As mighty Orion slips away to the west, so do its various companions, which include Canis Major (the Larger Dog) with the sky's brightest star, Sirius, Canis Minor (the Smaller Dog) with Procyon, and below the Hunter, little-appreciated Lepus the Hare, which contains a number of interesting objects that include one of the reddest stars of the sky, "Hind's Crimson Star," the long-period variable R Leporis.
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