Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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

Blue Cas

Photo of the Week.. Remembering Cassiopeia as her "W" glides down the northwestern sky in twilight.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, April 29, 2005.

While the week begins with the Moon technically in its waning gibbous phase, it will quickly move on to waning crescent as it passes its third quarter the night of Saturday, April 30, roughly around the time of its rising in North America. The night of the 30th, May Day Eve, is an astronomical event, a "cross-quarter day," when we are half way through spring to summer (much like Groundhog Day is halfway through winter to spring).

As the Moon descends the early morning sky, the crescent continuously narrowing, it takes on four planets and an asteroid. On Sunday, May 1, the Moon will (during daylight) pass 5 degrees south of Neptune, and then almost exactly 24 hours later will pass 3 degrees to the south of Mars. The morning of Monday the 2nd therefore finds the Moon to the west of Mars, while the following morning (Tuesday the 3rd) the Moon will be to the east of the red planet, which has passed into Aquarius and now rises around 3:15 AM Daylight Time. That same morning, the Moon glides 3 degrees south of Uranus, and on the morning of Friday the 6th, 3 degrees to the north of Mercury, perhaps allowing you to find the little planet, which will be near-lost to twilight. The day before, the Moon will occult, or pass over, the asteroid Juno (the third one discovered), the event however not visible from anywhere in North America.

That leaves the sky to the stars, Jupiter and Saturn, and a meteor shower. Saturn, in Gemini and in the northwest as the sky darkens, now sets just after 1 AM Daylight Time, while Jupiter (in Virgo) climbs the southeastern sky in evening and crosses the meridian to the south around 11 PM. Retrograding to the west, the increasing separation between Jupiter and Spica has been quite obvious. You might also try to find Venus, which will be hiding in the west-northwest as the sky darkens.

One of the better meteor showers of the year, the Eta Aquarids, runs through the week and peaks on May 5. For best results, look in the morning before dawn. The shower, from the debris of Halley's Comet, typically produces 30 or so meteors a minute that seem to come out of the constellation Aquarius. We pass near the orbit of the little particles again in October, when they produce the Orionid shower.

As we move deeper into spring, the ship Argo sails to the west into the sunset. The eastern- most section, Vela (the Sails), is just past the meridian in the southeast as the sky darkens, and just above the horizon. As the ship disappears, it is replaced by the stars of northern Centaurus and then by Lupus (the Wolf) and magnificent Scorpius, all of which ride low above the southern horizon for those in mid-latitude America and southern Canada.
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