Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured six times on Earth Science Picture of the Day:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6

Snow Tree

Photo of the Week. With summer approaching, let us remember winter and its brilliant clear skies.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 2, 2008.

We start the week with the Moon in a slim waning crescent phase. It then passes through new (more or less between us and the Sun) on Monday, May 5. Try to find the ultrathin crescent in dawn's light close to the horizon the morning of Sunday the 4th, which will be your last look until it pops up as a waxing crescent in evening twilight. (The morning of Saturday the 3rd provides an easier view.) Since the Moon passes perigee less than a day after the new phase, tides at the coasts will be especially high.

The evening of Tuesday the 6th is rather special, as the thin waxing crescent will provide an excellent guide to Mercury, which will be just below the Moon for those in North America. The little planet is heading toward greatest eastern elongation on May 13, and is making its best evening showing for the year. If you've never seen Mercury, this is a wonderful opportunity. The following evening, that of Wednesday the 7th, the Moon will appear between the horns of Taurus to the left of Elnath, Beta Tauri.

The evening is also prime time for viewing Mars. Now to the east of classical Gemini, to the left of Pollux and Castor, the red planet formally enters the constellation Cancer on Monday the 5th as it speeds along to the east. Well into the west by dark, Mars is on its way to becoming strictly an evening planet, as it now sets around 1:30 AM Daylight Time.

Our week is then rather bookended by Saturn and Jupiter. On Saturday the 3rd, the ringed planet finally ends its retrograde motion, appearing as close to Leo's Regulus (to the east of the star) as possible for this orbital round. Returning to its normal easterly motion, Saturn and Regulus will now begin to part. Make a note to see the two together some 29 to 30 years from now. Just 6 days later, on Friday the 9th, Jupiter does the reverse by ceasing easterly motion in eastern Sagittarius to the northeast of the Little Milk Dipper, and beginning its westerly retrograde movement. Transiting the meridian only half an hour after sunset, Saturn lies in the western darkened sky, setting around 3 AM Daylight. To the southeast, Jupiter makes another transition by rising at local midnight (1 AM Daylight).

Once again return to the deep southern sky and to Argo, the Ship of the Argonauts. While Puppis, the stern of the Ship, which lies to the south and east of Canis Major is gone for those in mid-North America, the Ship is so huge that the eastern part of Vela, the Sails, is still visible to the far south as the sky darkens. By midnight the deep southern sky stages the next big constellation over, Centaurus, the Centaur, who in myth is related to the great Ship.
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