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Greenland 12

Photo of the Week. Planet Earth: the last of twelve in the "Flight across Greenland," going from east to west above the fantastic glacier. See full resolution.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 2, 2014.

There are no more eclipses of either the Sun or Moon until October, so we can relax to admire the simple Moon itself as it goes through its eternal phases. This week we get to see it wax as a crescent, night by night climbing ever higher in the western evening sky until it reaches first quarter the night of Tuesday, May 6. It thereafter enters the waxing gibbous phase as it heads toward full Moon next week. The evening of Friday the 2nd, the crescent will lie rather well down and to the right of Jupiter, while the following evening the sight will be especially good with the Moon almost directly below the giant planet. First quarter will lie to the appear of Regulus in Leo.

Four planets remain scattered across the sky. Jupiter dominates early evening, setting shortly before local midnight. Rising in the southeast, Jupiter's brother planet Saturn crosses the meridian to the south shortly thereafter, In between is reddish Mars, which lies to the south an hour after the end of twilight, the latter two with us all evening. At the end of the trail is Venus. Rising about as dawn begins, look for it in morning twilight to the east rather low above the horizon. It's hard to miss.

Early May is known for one of the finer meteor showers of the year, the Eta Aquarids, which will peak the mornings of May 5 through 7 with the Moon quite out of the way, rendering the skies dark before dawn. The shower comes from the debris from Halley's Comet hitting our atmosphere, as do the Orionids of October. The Eta Aquarids, which come out of Aquarius, are at their best from the southern hemisphere, where you might see one a minute.

The usual suspects creep across the sky. Leo, with its prominent Sickle (which represents the Lion's head), roars high in early evening, followed by Virgo, which now holds Mars well to the northwest of Spica and to the south of the star Porrima. Just to the north of Leo are the dim stars that mark the "modern" constellation of Leo Minor, the Lesser Lion, invented in the 17th century by Johannes Hevelius. To the southwest of the Sickle lies the ragged head of Hydra, the Water Serpent, which snakes below both Leo and Virgo.

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