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

Third quarter Moon

Photo of the Week. Good morning to the third quarter Moon.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 4, 2010.

Skylights now resumes its normal weekly schedule.

We begin the week with the Moon going through its last quarter the afternoon of Friday, June 4, after Moonset in North America. It will rise the night of Saturday the 5th just a bit past that phase. The rest of the week sees it fading in its waning crescent as it heads toward new the morning of Saturday the 12th about the time of Sunrise. Your last look at the ultrathin crescent in eastern dawn will be the morning of Friday the 11th.

The week, focussing on Sunday, June 6, is remarkable for its passages and conjunctions. The mornings of Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th, the Moon will make fine pairings with Jupiter, first appearing up and to the right of the giant planet (which now rises around 2 AM Daylight Time) and then closer and up and to the left of it. Not only will the Moon pass 7 degrees north of Jupiter, it will at the same time pass 6 degrees north of Uranus, no surprise since Jupiter and Uranus are also on that same morning in conjunction with each other, Uranus just half a degree to the north. If you have a telescope or even binoculars, this is a grand chance to find the dim (6th magnitude) outer planet.

Mars now shines brightly in the southwest after sundown, not setting until midnight Daylight Time, shortly before Jupiter rises. For the past weeks, the planet has been approaching Regulus in Leo, and on that same remarkable morning, Sunday the 6th, it will pass just under a degree north of the star, the two making a fine color contrast, the reddish planet highlighted against a stellar blue-white, Mars just a bit the brighter of the pair. During this time we have a fine opportunity to watch planetary motion as Mars moves to the east of the star, seen closest the nights of Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th.

And we are not yet done. Remember Venus? Not setting until 11 PM, the brilliant planet dominates the early northwestern sky. On Wednesday the 9th, Venus will pass 5 degrees south of Pollux in Gemini, the star (with Castor) seen up and to the right of the planet. And there is still more. Though Mercury is making a poor morning appearance, at least note that it will be 5 degrees south of the Moon on Thursday the 10th. That leaves us with lonely Saturn. Moving slowly in western Virgo, seen just into the southwest at the end of twilight, Saturn sets almost exactly as Jupiter rises.

Four ancient constellations come in sets of two. Look for the Big and Little Bears, Ursa Major and Minor, the first high in the early evenings, the second surrounding the Pole to the North. Canis Major and Minor, denizens of winter skies, are now out of sight. To these, add a similar quite visible pair, Leo and modern Leo Minor, the dim smaller Lion riding the back of its bigger and brighter ancient sibling.
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