Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -- Full List Restored!


Photo of the Week. Sweeping cloud.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 9, 2014.

The Moon swells early in the week in its waxing gibbous phase, which is terminated at full Moon on Wednesday, May 14, during daylight hours in North America, so we see it rise prior to full the night of Tuesday the 13th, then just after full the following night, though it's rather hard to tell the difference. It then diminishes in the waning gibbous phase as it heads toward third quarter the middle of next week. The evening of Saturday the 10th, the Moon will appear to the west of Mars, while the following evening it will find itself to the east of the red planet, roughly between it and the star Spica in Virgo. Our companion then heads toward Saturn, appearing to the west of the ringed planet the evening of Tuesday the 13th, then to east of it the following night. The juxtaposition of the Moon and the two bright planets allows an easy sense of the motion of the Moon over the course of only a couple hours.

The evening sky is glorious with planets, as noted by the lunar passages. As darkness closes in, Jupiter shines to the west (not setting 'till just after midnight) while Mars glows to the south and Saturn to the southeast. Even little Mercury begins to make an appearance low in western dusk. As Jupiter goes down, Mars is to the southwest, Saturn to the south. You can watch the latter two until near the beginning of twilight, when Mars finally sets. But as it drops out of sight, Venus rises, remaining visible until the glowing dawn takes it away. On Thursday the 15th, Venus passes just over a degree south of Uranus, though the little event is near-impossible to see. The big event involves Saturn, which passes opposition to the Sun on Saturday the 10th, when it rises at sundown, sets at sunup, and crosses the meridian to the south at true midnight (1 AM Daylight Time).

The Ship Argo is sailing off to the southwest, to be replaced in the south in the evening by Centaurus, only its northern stars visible in mid-latitudes. Fix your attention then to the north and to Leo with its prominent "Sickle" that ends in Regulus. To the east of the Sickle is a prominent triangle that features bright, second magnitude, Denebola as the Tail of the roaring Lion. Further north, the Big Dipper is crossing the sky.

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