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 .

Anvilling thunderheads

Photo of the Week.. Anvilling thunderheads bring promise of rain below.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, May 28, 2004.

The Moon passes through its full phase this week on the night of Wednesday June 2, shortly before midnight in North America as the Moon approaches the meridian to the south. With the Sun getting farther and farther north of the equator, the full Moon -- always opposite the Sun -- is getting farther and farther south. This month it appears in Scorpius, just to the west of the Winter Solstice (which is within the confines of the next constellation over to the east, Sagittarius), and is appropriately called the "Rose Moon" or "Flower Moon." Only 9 hours after the Moon passes full, it goes through perigee, where it is closest to the Earth, the combination bringing especially high tides to the coasts (as the height of a shore tide depends on the combination of lunar and solar tides, which are aligned, and on the distances to the bodies, which affect their gravitational effects on the Earth.)

The evening configuration of the planets changes constantly as they move progressively to the west at different paces. Venus, ruler of the western sky for so long, is sinking quickly, and as June begins is nearly invisible close to the horizon as it prepares to swing between us and the Sun for the "great event," a transit across the solar disk on June 8, the first one since 1882. The orbit of Venus is tilted by a bit over three degrees relative to Earth's orbit. Usually, as Venus passes inferior conjunction with the Sun (between us and the Sun), it goes above or below the solar disk. Only on the rare instances when the planet is near crossing the ecliptic (at a "node") during inferior conjunction do we get a transit. Transits come in pairs 8 years apart separated by 243 years (the next one in 2012). Unfortunately, North America gets a poor view. Those in central and eastern North America see the Sun rise with the transit in progress, while those in the west see it not at all. Venus will appear as a small black disk set against the brilliant Sun. This is NOT a naked eye event, and may be viewed telescopically ONLY with professionally made filters properly used, or by projection.

Mars and Saturn, together in central Gemini, follow Venus, both setting less than an hour after twilight ends. That leaves the celestial stage to Jupiter, which in early evening stands high to the south in Leo, the giant planet not setting until after 1:30 AM Daylight Time.

Comet LINEAR is near its greatest height in evening twilight in the west southwest, while Comet NEAT is higher and approaching Ursa Major. You will need binoculars to see them.

If Leo is the traditional harbinger of northern spring, Bootes (the Herdsman), with brilliant Arcturus, must be second. The large constellation stretches from near the handle of the Big Dipper all the way down to only 8 degrees from the celestial equator, as it rises looking like a kite on its side. Directly to the east of it lies one of the prettier constellations of the sky, Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown.
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