Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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


Photo of the Week. Moonlight on the waters.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 23, 2008.

Cheers for those who made the Phoenix Mars Mission a success!

The Moon begins the week in its waning gibbous phase as it approaches third quarter the night of Tuesday, May 27, just before Moonrise in North America, technically turning the Moon to its waning crescent, which will then thin a bit through the remainder of our period. The morning of Friday the 23rd, the Moon took up residence within the confines of Sagittarius and the Little Milk Dipper, so that by the following morning, that of Saturday the 24th (the night of Friday the 23rd), it will be passing just a couple degrees to the south of Jupiter, the two making a fine sight, as Jupiter is bright enough to remain relatively unhampered by Moonlight.

The outer planets are next up for visits. On Monday the 26th, the Moon passes Neptune (and actually occults it, though not for North American viewers), and then on Thursday the 29th it's Uranus's turn. Neptune, in far northeastern Capricornus, begins retrograde (westerly) motion on Monday the 26th. Uranus is a constellation over, still stuck in northeastern Aquarius just south of the border with Pisces below the "Circlet."

So far as the naked eye is concerned, with Mercury a much more difficult sight in western twilight, the planetary sky is made of the outer three, in order from west to east, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. Look west for Mars in the evening up from a line that extends to the left through Gemini's Castor and Pollux. Pay special attention to Mars the nights of Friday the 23rd and Saturday the 24th, when the red planet passes across Cancer's Beehive Cluster, which lies just north of the ecliptic. Look early, as Mars now sets just before midnight local time (1 AM Daylight), a bit over two hours after the end of twilight, and use binoculars. Looking higher in the west you can then also admire Saturn in its own environment just to the east of Leo's Regulus, the ringed planet not setting just AFTER midnighti local time. Finally, it's Jupiter's turn, the giant planet rising east of Sagittarius around 11:30 PM Daylight.

Among the dim giants of the sky is Hydra, the Water Serpent, which underlies three constellations of the Zodiac. Its round head lies just to the south of Cancer and the Beehive Cluster (and this week, Mars). It then winds well to the south of Leo and Virgo, finally ending up just to the west of Libra. Look for its luminary, Alphard (Alpha Hya), a lonely, modestly bright star to the south (and a bit west) of Leo and Saturn.
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