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 .

Orion rising

Photo of the Week.. Remembering winter's Orion makes it feel more like spring. The Winter Triangle of Betelgeuse (near center), Sirius (lower center), and Procyon (lower left) occupies the lower left quadrant of the picture. The bright object to upper left is Jupiter, which was passing through Gemini at the time.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 6, 2005.

The Moon goes through "new" this week on the morning of Sunday, May 8, when it passes more or less between us and the Sun (actually a bit south of it, thus avoiding an eclipse), rendering it invisible for a time. The morning of Saturday the 7th the Moon will appear as a very thin waning crescent low in eastern dawn, but very difficult to see. By the evening of Sunday the 8th it will have switched sides to the west, but will be even thinner and near-impossible to find. By the evening of Monday the 9th, however, you will have no difficulty spotting it in fading twilight.

If you look early enough, you might use the Moon as a guide to find">Venus, which on the evening of the 9th will be down below the Moon and just above the horizon. Now beginning to encroach on the evening sky, Venus will slowly climb the western evening sky, and will be nicely visible by the end of the month. Moving easterly through Taurus, its nighttime side awash with earthlight, the growing crescent passes just below Elnath (Beta Tauri) the evening of Tuesday the 10th and then heads toward Saturn in Gemini, which it will approach the night of Thursday, May 12.

Ever so slowly, by nightfall the ringed planet slips deeper into western skies. Crossing a benchmark of sorts, Saturn now sets at local midnight (1 AM Daylight Time). It is nicely replaced, however, by giant Jupiter, which is high in the southeast as darkness overtakes the sky and crosses the meridian to the south around 10:30 PM Daylight Time. Though rising before sunset, Jupiter is still effectively with us all night, as it does not set until after the beginning of dawn. From about 3 AM (Daylight) on, it shares the sky with Mars, which is still well ahead of Earth in orbit, and is rapidly moving to the east against the stars of eastern Aquarius to the south of the constellation's "Water Jar."

The Moonless sky may help you find all the stars of Ursa Minor's Little Dipper, which in early evening is reaching out to the east of Polaris (the North Star) and nicely set for viewing. Polaris and the front bowl stars Kochab and Pherkad, are easy to see: look roughly half way up to the north. The other stars of the handle, though, are faint and tough to pick out, while the southeastern corner of the bowl is even more difficult. Once found, though it is charming indeed. Halfway between the Little Dipper's bowl and the Big Dipper's handle, find Thuban, Alpha Draconis, which around 2700 BC served as the pole star, as the precession (wobble) in the Earth's axis takes the pole on a 47-degree-across circle around the northern sky.
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