Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Stormy Sky

Photo of the Week. Stormy skies will clear to reveal the stars.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, May 8, 2015.

The next skylights will appear May 22, 2015.

We begin with a fat waning gibbous Moon that passes last quarter the morning of Monday, May 11, with the Moon high in the sky. The Moon thence runs through its waning crescent, which is terminated by new Moon on Sunday the 17th. Your last look at the ultra-thin crescent will be the morning of Saturday the 16th. As it fades, the Moon passes north of Neptune on Tuesday the 12th then as bit south of Uranus three days later. More significant, it goes through perigee, where it is 5.5 percent closer than average, the night of Thursday the 14th.

The waxing crescent will become readily visible in western twilight the evening of Tuesday the 19th, after which it will make some delightful visits. The evening of Wednesday the 20th, find it below brilliant Venus, which in turn will be below Castor and Pollux in Gemini. The following evening the crescent will be down and to the left of the planet, between it and the star Procyon in Canis Minor. One more evening takes the Moon well to the left of Venus and above Procyon, but now down and to the right of Jupiter, the planet lying above the Moon the night of Saturday the 23rd.

The bright light in the western evening sky, everyone's favorite UFO, is Venus. And it will keep on getting brighter until early July when it will also rendezvous with Jupiter, making an even scarier UFO as it did a few years back.

Not only is Venus getting brighter, it's setting about as late as it can, past 11:30 PM, almost two hours after the end of twilight. Well past the meridian as the sky darkens, Jupiter sets shortly after local midnight (1 AM Daylight Time), maintaining its position to the west of Leo and Regulus. About as Jupiter sets, Saturn transits low to the south just above the three-star head of Scorpius, Antares below. The ringed planet passes opposition to the Sun as our fortnight ends, on Friday the 22nd, when it will rise at sunset, cross to the south at local midnight, and set at sunrise.

Southwest of Jupiter find the roundish head of Hydra, the Water Serpent. The longest constellation in the sky, Hydra, plunging to the southeast, wraps a third of the way around the sky, its tail almost reaching to Libra. Hydra's modern cognate in the southern celestial hemisphere, Hydrus, the Water Snake (it does get confusing), is contained within 30 degrees of the South Celestial Pole south of bright Achernar at the end of Eridanus (the River), and peaks in the evening for those south of the tropics in December. In the early evening, northerners find the Big Dipper nearly overhead, orange Arcturus high to the southeast.

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