Skylights featured three times on Earth Science
Picture of the Day: 1
Photo of the Week.. A free-swinging Foucault
pendulum (here at the University of Louisville) demonstrates the
rotation of the Earth.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 16, 2003.
With the full Moon and
lunar eclipse now past us, the Moon spends the week waning
through its gibbous phase, finally
quarter the night of Thursday the 22nd a few hours before
Moonrise in North America. The night of Friday, the 16th, the Moon
will make a nice pairing with Antares (the star to the right of
the Moon and hard to see in the Moon's brilliant glow). Watch then
the night of Sunday the 18th (actually the morning of the 19th) as
the Moon "bottoms out" at its lowest point in its path, south of
the ecliptic and seen against the stars of the Little Milk Dipper
of Sagittarius. During the day on
Wednesday the 21st, the Moon passes south of Mars, and
will therefore appear to the west of the planet earlier that
morning, and to the east of it the morning of Thursday, the
has been beautifully with us all year, is now making its last
"nighttime stand," the planet setting only half an hour after
evening twilight ends. Glorious Jupiter, however,
remains a lovely evening object. Still in Cancer just to the east of the Beehive Cluster, the planet is slowly moving eastward
against the stars, and not setting until just after 1 AM Daylight
Time. As the giant planet sets, however, it is replaced by
brightening Mars, which rises in the southeast deep in central Capricornus very nearly in opposition
to Jupiter. This same week (on Wednesday the 21st) Mars passes
conjunction with dim telescopic Neptune, the
red planet two degrees south of the last of the big planets. (Pluto is smaller than our Moon
and has dual residence in the standard planetary system and in the
Belt of primitive bodies that make our short-period comets).
While Venus (which
for so long dominated the morning) is still visible, it is getting
much more difficult to see, as it rises in twilight only about an
hour before sunrise. Look to the east northeast to see if you can
find this twilight "morning star" just above the horizon.
Follow the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper to the south as it passes through Arcturus and then down to Spica, the luminary of Virgo, the constellation that holds
the autumnal equinox. Two "boxes" flank this bright star, after Regulus in Leo the closest first magnitude star to the ecliptic.
To the right is a distorted square that makes Corvus, the Crow or Raven. Just as
the two front bowl stars of the Big Dipper point northward toward
Polaris, the top two stars of
Corvus point eastward to Spica -- and are also known as "the
Pointers." To the left of Spica is the next constellation of the
Zodiac, a larger distorted square that makes most of Libra, the Scales, its two brightest
stars once being the "claws" of the yet-next zodiacal constellation
over, Scorpius, the Scorpion.