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


Photo of the Week. Reflective sunrise..

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, May 21, 2010.

Skylights, presented a bit early, will resume its normal weekly schedule on Friday, June 4. Last week's is still available.

During our extended period, the Moon grows from first quarter (achieved Thursday, May 20) through its waxing gibbous phase to full, reached the night of Thursday, May 27. We then see it head toward third quarter in its waning gibbous phase, the quarter finally made at the close of our fortnight on Friday, June 4. The night of Saturday the 22nd, the waxing Moon will pass a hefty 8 degrees south of Saturn. The "big show" takes place the night of the full Moon, on Thursday the 27th, when it can be found just a bit north of Antares in Scorpius, the star though difficult to see in the lunar glare. If you can, use binoculars. On Thursday, June 3, the Moon passes apogee, where it is farthest from Earth.

In the evening, night after night, Venus climbs higher, while Mars descends. Not like it does Venus much good, as the end of twilight just continues to keep up with the bright planet, which still sets in the west northwest just half an hour after the sky is fully dark. Mars, however, well into the west after sundown, sets ever earlier, now around 1:30 AM. Moving rapidly to the east against the stellar background, the red planet can be seen approaching Regulus in Leo.

Farther east, Saturn still resides in Virgo to the west of Spica, not setting until roughly 2:30 AM, as Jupiter rises, about an hour before dawn. The giant planet, in Pisces to the southeast of the "Circlet," dominates the early morning sky. Saturn makes the bigger news, though, by ceasing its retrograde motion on the last day of May (as does Neptune). They will then begin their normal easterly movements against the stars. That leaves us with Mercury, which is making a poorish morning appearance not far above the dawn horizon, even though going through greatest western elongation on Tuesday the 25th.

It's time to admire Corvus, the Crow, one of the more prominent of small constellations. Look a bit low to the south around 9 PM for a distorted box, its top two stars pointing eastward toward Spica, its bottom two in the same direction toward Gamma Hydrae, the next-to-the- last star of the tail of Hydra, the Water Serpent. Below the star, close to the horizon, glow the stars of northern Centaurus, the Centaur.
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