Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured six times on Earth Science Picture of the Day:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6

Saturn in Cancer

Photo of the Week. Saturn hovers in Cancer next to the Beehive Cluster. Castor and Pollux of Gemini are down and to the right. Enjoy full resolution.

Astronomy news for the three-week period starting Friday, May 19, 2006.

Skylights' "Picture of the Week" for February 24 was recently featured on the Earth Science Picture of the Day .

Skylights will next appear on Friday, June 9. Thank you for your patience.

During this extended three-week period, the Moon goes through three-fourths of its monthly rounds. It begins at last quarter the night of Friday, May 19, then goes into its waning crescent phase to new on Friday the 26th, to the waxing crescent, to first quarter on Saturday, June 3, and finally in the waxing gibbous ends our period just short of full. Watch for the slim growing crescent in the west-northwest during twilight the night of Sunday the 28th. On Monday the 22nd, the Moon goes through perigee, where it is closest to Earth, while on Saturday, June 3, it goes through apogee, when it is 11 percent farther away.

Many are the passages. On Sunday the 21st, the Moon not just passes Uranus, but occults it, though only as seen from southern Africa and Antarctica. Then during the waxing crescent's climb out of western twilight, the Moon will barge through central Gemini the night of Monday the 29th. The following evening, watch for it to the left of Castor and Pollux, when it lies on a line between these two and Mars. With Saturn up and to the left, the quintet will make quite the fine sight. As the month ends, on Wednesday May 31, the Moon will pass just above the ringed planet, which still moves slowly through Cancer near the Beehive Cluster (see the photo of the week). Then into June: the night of Wednesday the 7th, the Moon will lie between Spica and bright Jupiter, while the following night sees the Moon climbing upward to the east of the giant planet.

The evening sky is now filled with planets. During early June, Mercury climbs out of sunlight and into western dusk as it prepares for a pretty good appearance. Though fading, Mars lingers in the west after sundown as it slowly advances from Gemini to Cancer and toward Saturn (the two coming into conjunction on June 17). As June begins, they set within half an hour of each other just before midnight Daylight Time. It's really Jupiter that dominates the scene, however. In">retrograde near the Libra-Virgo border, the planet crosses the meridian to the south around 11 PM and does not set until mid-dawn, at which point Venus, gleaming unmistakably, takes over in the east. Finally, Neptune sneaks in, the distant planet going into retrograde on Monday, May 22.

May into June is "Dipper Time," as the Big Dipper of Ursa Major, the Greater Bear, circles nearly overhead in mid-evening. At the same time, the Little Dipper of Ursa Minor climbs upward as well to the east of Polaris, the nearly-unmoving North Star. Between the two lies the tail of Draco, the Dragon. Spread out south of the Dipper, look for the three star-pairs that make the ancient Arabs' "leaps of the Gazelle." West of the Dipper's bowl are the dim stars of Lynx, the Lynx. If you are far enough north with a clear northern horizon, look for the "W" of Cassiopeia below the pole nearly opposite the Dipper. Look then to the northeast to see white Vega of Lyra climbing the sky to be followed later in the night by Deneb of Cygnus, the Swan.
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