Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

Scout Report Selection Webivore Selection SpaceCareers Selection

Skylights featured three times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 .

Sun and clouds

Photo of the Week.. The Sun bids us farewell for the day, allowing the rush of nightfall.

Astronomy news for 9 days starting Friday, May 21 2004.

The week begins with the Moon in its waxing crescent phase lying up and to the left of still-brilliant Venus , the two making a nice pair. The rest of the week is a story of conjunctions, as the growing crescent moves above Mars and Saturn the next night, Saturday the 22nd. The following night, Sunday the 23rd, our companion will stand immediately to the left of Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Toward the middle of the week, the Moon next takes on Jupiter, lying to the right of the bright planet the night of Wednesday the 26th, and to the left of it the following evening, Thursday, the 27th.

Then right in the middle of it all, on Monday the 24th, speedier Mars makes a close passage to the north of Saturn, the two lying only 1.4 degrees (three times the angular diameter of the Moon) apart. Though the two will differ considerably in brightness (Saturn is of magnitude zero, Mars bright second, Saturn 4.5 times the brighter), the color contrast will still be quite noticeable. Both planets are close to the Summer Solstice (the point on the ecliptic passed by the Sun on the first day of summer) and are about as close to as far north as they can get, giving us a grand view. The proximity of the two planets allows one to see just how fast Mars is moving to the east, its motion visible from night to night.

Venus, getting ever closer to the horizon as it approaches inferior conjunction with the Sun (passing directly between us and the Sun for a transit on June 8), now sets just as twilight ends. Mars and Saturn follow about an hour later, while Jupiter lingers until well after midnight.

Try to keep your eye on Comet NEAT. Though fading in brightness, the comet -- a dirty iceball left over from the formation of the Solar System -- is climbing higher into the evening sky, and by the beginning of the week will be well above Gemini.

The heavens feature some odd constellations, particularly two modern figures that feature a pair of, of all things, flies: Musca Borealis (the Northern Fly), and Musca Australis (the Southern Fly). Musca Borealis flits on the back of Aries (now clearing the morning Sun), and was fortunately swatted from the accepted list of constellations. With the northern one "gone" (though still there for your "admiration"), the southern Fly now just takes on the name of Musca (the Fly), which buzzes around the South Celestial Pole and out of sight for anyone north of about 15 degrees north latitude.
Valid HTML 4.0!