Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7


Photo of the Week. The rising Sun lights and warms the day.

Astronomy news for the three-week period starting Friday, May 25, 2007.

Skylights will next appear on June 15, 2007.

During this extended three-week period, we watch our Moon go through much of its phase cycle, from just past first quarter, through the waxing gibbous to full the night of Thursday, May 31, through waning gibbous to third quarter (Friday, June 8), then through waning crescent, and finally to new on Thursday, June 14th. As it sails along, it will pass just south of Antares the night of Thursday the 31st (the full Moon making the star hard to see), then a few hours later, the morning of Friday the 1st, several degrees to the south of Jupiter (which lies just to the northeast of the star). It then respectively goes by Neptune and Uranus on Wednesday the 6th and Friday the 8th, and finally past Mars during daylight on Sunday the 10th, rendering it to the west of the planet that morning, to the east of it the following morning. With the Sun near the Summer Solstice, this full Moon will be close to the Winter Solstice. In addition, the tilt of the lunar orbit will be sending it well south of the ecliptic, resulting in a very low full Moon (as seen from northern climes).

Venus (now near its most glorious) reaches a milestone by passing its greatest eastern elongation (45 degrees to the east of the Sun) the night of Friday, June 8. While the planet slowly begins a descent toward twilight, it will continue to brighten until mid-July. The night of Thursday the 31st, Venus will make a fine-looking alignment with (to the left of) Castor and Pollux in Gemini. (It passes four degrees south of Pollux on Wednesday the 30th.) That same evening (the 31st, and for a couple nights before and after), look for Mercury down and to the right, near the feet of the celestial twins, the little planet passing its own greatest eastern elongation (23 degrees east of the Sun) on Saturday the 2nd.

Right in the middle of our viewing period, Jupiter hits its own milestone, as it stands at opposition to the Sun on Tuesday the 5th of June. At that time, it will rise at sunset, set at sunrise, and cross the meridian to the south at local midnight (about 1 AM Daylight Time). Not to be outdone, around June 1, Saturn turns completely into an evening planet, setting at local midnight, while Neptune begins retrograde motion the day after Jupiter's opposition. Finally, as May turns to June, try Mars, which is now rising over half an hour before dawn's first light.

This time of year presents us with a fine parade of constellations that begins with Bootes, marked by Arcturus, the brightest star of the northern hemisphere (just follow the curve of the Big Dipper's handle to the south). Then following to the east are Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown), Hercules, Lyra (with Vega, just barely the second brightest star of the northern hemisphere), and finally Cygnus, the Swan, with magnificent Deneb at its tail.
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