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!


Full Moon rising

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, May 19, 2017.

Note: Sometimes the old ways really ARE the best ways. The "bullet" form of Skylights that I've been using since the beginning of the year did not work very well for me, and actually proved more difficult to put together. I also thought it was boring. Consequently, I'm returning to the narrative form, which I much prefer. It was worth a try. Thanks for your patience.

The next skylights will appear June 2, 2017.

With last quarter passed on Thursday, May 18, we begin this two-week round with the Moon just barely in its waning crescent phase as it thins and heads towards new Moon on Thursday the 25th. On the morning of Monday the 22nd, the rising Moon will make a fine sight just down and to the right of Venus. The following morning, we will get our last look at the thinning crescent as it stands a bit up and rather well to the right of Mercury. Our companion then flips to the western side of the sky, making its first appearance as a very thin waxing crescent in early twilight the evening of Friday the 26th, when it appears down and to the left of Mars. It then makes its way upward against the stars of Taurus, Gemini, and Leo. The evening of Sunday the 28th, it will be down and to the left of Pollux and Castor, on the evening of Tuesday, May 30, down and to the right of Regulus in Leo, while the following night it will be up and to the left of the star, which it occults on Wednesday the 31st as seen from the southern hemisphere. The crescent phase will end at first quarter on Thursday, June 1. The Moon passes perigee, when it is closest to Earth, on Friday, the 25th, the night of the new Moon, when the alignment of the Earth, Moon, and Sun will produce especially high and low tides at the coasts.

As augured above, Mercury and Venus are both morning planets, though Mercury, rising in bright eastern twilight, will be tough to see. Venus is vastly better, rising brilliantly just as dawn begins to light the sky around 3:30 Daylight Time. It's hard to miss. The planet will be our "morning star" until November. The outer two ancient planets are also paired. Jupiter, due north of spica.html">Spica in Virgo, dominates the sky the first half of the night, not setting until about 3 AM, shortly before Venus rises and just after Saturn transits the meridian low to the south between the classic outlines of Scorpius and Sagittarius. In the "for what it's worth" department, the Moon occults Neptune on Friday the 19th as seen from Madagascar, and Venus slides 1.8 degrees south of Uranus on Friday the 2nd.

The winter constellations of Gemini, Auriga, and the like are mere ghosts of themselves as they fall to the west in late spring twilight. Those of spring and summer now hold sway. In the early evening find Spica north of Jupiter and then continue northward to Arcturus, who drives the Great Bear, Ursa Major (with the Big Dipper), around the North Celestial Pole, which is marked by Polaris, the luminary of Ursa Minor, the Smaller Bear. South of the curve of the Big Dipper's handle, bark the two stars that make the modern constellation Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs.
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