Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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


Photo of the Week.. A rainbow gives a promise of summer.

Astronomy news for short week starting Friday, April 25, 2003.

The Moon wanes through its crescent phase in the morning sky this week as it approaches new, the phase passed on May 1 just about the time of sunrise (and of course at the same time, moonrise), to celebrate "May Day." Just four hours before, the Moon also passes apogee, where it is farthest from the Earth. On Friday the 25th, the Moon passes well to the south of Uranus . Much better, the morning of Monday the 28th look for the thin crescent to the right (and south) of bright Venus, both of which will be low in the east in fairly bright twilight, the planet now rising only about an hour before sunrise. Venus will maintain this relation to the Sun for another couple months, and then during July and August will slowly be lost to the solar glare.

Our astronomical roots are everywhere. May Day, rather the evening before (May Eve), is actually an astronomical holiday, a "cross- quarter day" that fits in between the times of passage of the Sun across the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice, quite like Groundhog Day, which falls between the first days of winter and spring, and Halloween, which falls between the start of autumn and winter.

The evening sky still sees Jupiter, high to the south in Cancer at the end of twilight, and Saturn , well to the west in departing Taurus, the ringed planet now setting around 11:30 Daylight Time. In between the setting of Saturn and the rising of Venus lies Mars. Now in Capricornus, the red planet rises around 2 AM Daylight Time. In another month it will make the transition to evening rise, coming up at 12 midnight Standard Time (1 AM Daylight).

While the winter stars are not much with us any longer, brilliant Sirius still lingers in the early evening southwest. Now is the time for Spring, and great Leo the Lion, which stalks high to the south at 9 PM. Above and to the north lies the bowl of the Big Dipper, and in between small Leo Minor. To the south lie the dim constellations of Sextans (the Sextant) and ancient Crater (the Cup). Crossing the central part of ancient Hydra (the Water Serpent), we arrive at the obscure modern figure Antlia (the, of all things, Air Pump, a clear artifact of its time). From there down are the bright stars of Vela (the Sails), part of Argo (Jason's Ship), which is properly visible only from southern latitudes.
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