Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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First quarter Moon

Photo of the Week. Another daylight first quarter Moon with tree. .

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, June 5, 2015.

The next skylights will appear June 19, 2015.

The fortnight begins with the Moon in its waning gibbous phase as it approaches third quarter, which takes place the morning of Tuesday, June 9, with the Moon in the daylight sky heading toward moonset. It then runs through the waning crescent and finally reaches new Moon on Tuesday the 16th. By the evening of Wednesday the 17th, we'll get to see the growing crescent in western evening twilight. There are no planetary passages unless you want to count the Moon going north of Neptune on Monday the 8th and barely south of Uranus on Thursday the 11th. A conjunction between the waning crescent and Mercury on Sunday the 14th is quite out of sight. Our companion passes perigee, where it is closest to Earth, on Tuesday the 9th.

While there are no partnerships between the Moon and bright planets, the latter hardly disappoint. Brilliant in the west after sundown, Venus does not set until 11:30 or so PM Daylight Time, while bright Jupiter (in western Leo) steadily approaches it. The show is impossible to miss as the duo heads toward their close rendezvous as June turns to July. While the display has no physical meaning, it's lovely to see and helps draw people out under the starry sky. By the time of their close encounter, the pair will be setting around the end of evening twilight. In other planetary news, Mars finally goes through conjunction with the Sun on Sunday the 14th, the god of war then invading the morning sky. It will be mid-August, however, before Mars surfaces prior to dawn, by which time Venus will be gone from the evening sky. Among bright planets, that leaves us with glorious Saturn, which transits the meridian to the south not long after the end of evening twilight, the ringed one still to the northwest of Antares in Scorpius. Much fainter, Neptune, in Aquarius, begins retrograde motion, westerly against the background stars, on Friday the 12th.

Few constellations are as glorious as Scorpius, the celestial scorpion, which carries the red supergiant Antares as its heart. Now crossing to the south in late evening and looking like what it is supposed to be, the curving figure is set into an extraordinary part of the Milky Way to the west of Sagittarius. To the southwest of Scorpius lies Lupus, the Wolf, made of a sprawl of stars that together look nothing like its namesake.

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