Skylights featured three times on Earth Science
Picture of the Day: 1
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
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
Venus, getting ever closer to the horizon as it approaches inferior
conjunction with the Sun (passing directly between us and the Sun
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.