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


Photo of the Week. Summer is coming....

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 16, 2010.

The Moon grows this week from our initial view of the waxing crescent toward its first quarter on Wednesday, April 21, about the time of Moonrise in North America. We then have a day of the waxing gibbous before time runs out and we are into Skylights' next week.

Be sure to catch the sight in evening western twilight as our week begins, the evening of Friday the 16th, when the thin crescent will lie directly above Venus and below the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus, the three in a line perpendicular to the horizon. The following evening, that of Saturday the 17th, our Moon will form a nice triangle with the Pleiades down and to the right of it, the Hyades (the Pleiades sister cluster in Taurus) down and to the left.

Continuing along, then look for the fattening crescent to pass below Gemini's Castor and Pollux the night of Tuesday the 20th. The following evening is even better, with the near-perfect quarter Moon passing south of Mars and the Beehive cluster, our companion then approaching Regulus in Leo the night of Thursday the 22nd, with Mars now to the west of it.

The evening sky appears awash with planets. Venus, now setting just after the end of twilight, is easily visible in the west- northwest, with Mercury hanging on down and to the right of it. Mars now appears to the west of the meridian as twilight ends, and does not set until 3 AM Daylight Time. Picking up speed to the east against the stars (as seen from Earth), the red planet finally passes just a bit over a degree to the north of Cancer's Beehive cluster on Friday the 16th, the two making a fine sight in binoculars. Looking to the east, then find Saturn between Leo's Regulus and Virgo's Spica, the ringed planet just under three degrees to the north of the Autumnal Equinox. Transiting at 11 PM, Saturn is with us until twilight brightens the eastern sky. That leaves Jupiter, which is still stuck in eastern morning twilight and remains difficult to find.

Then if you are an early riser, you might spot a couple meteors from the small Lyrid shower, which emanates from the constellation Lyra and that peaks the morning of Thursday the 22nd.

'Tis full spring and Leo season, this prominent member of the Zodiac on fine display to the south around 10 PM. The head of the celestial Lion is formed by one of the most famed of informal asterisms, the "Sickle," which closely resembles a backward question mark with Regulus at its bottom. Bringing up the rear is the Lion's Tail, marked by Denebola, the eastern-most star of a prominent triangle.
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