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 -- Full List Restored!


Photo of the Week.Sirius (in Canis Major), the brightest star in the sky, hovers over number two Canopus (in Carina of Argo) way down below. Lepus (the Hare) bounces along just above center right, while stars of southern Orion shine near the upper right corner.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 7, 2013.

We begin the week practically at the new Moon, which takes place on Saturday, June 8, just a day before the Moon passes its apogee, the extra distance diminishing the surge of new Moon tides at the coasts. Look for the slim crescent in western twilight the evening of Monday the 10th, when it will make a fine sight with Venus to the right and dimmer Mercury up and to the right. The triangle with Mercury on top will allow for a chance to see the littlest planet, the elusive one that lies closest to the Sun. ( Pluto, at the far end of the planetary system, is smaller yet, but is not officially counted as a "planet" any more.) By the following evening, the Moon will have shifted up and to the left of the bright pair. It then spends the remainder of the week as a waxing crescent, not reaching first quarter until Sunday the 16th.

With or without the Moon, Mercury and Venus linger together, with Mercury up and to the left of its brighter mate. Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation on Wednesday the 12th, but is actually a bit more visible in the few days before that event, the planet not setting until twilight is nearly over. To see either of them, you'll need a clear western horizon and to look early, especially for Venus, which sets first. While Jupiter is now but a memory, we still have Saturn to admire. As the sky darkens, around 10 PM Daylight Time, look for the ringed planet near the meridian to the south, Virgo's Spica to the west of it. Saturn brackets the night by setting in the southwest just as dawn begins to illuminate the eastern sky. Rising in bright twilight, Mars is just too faint to see. In lesser news, Neptune begins retrograde motion (westerly against the stars) on Friday the 7th.

With the Sun arriving at the Summer Solstice next week on the night of Thursday the 20th, we see the spring stars of Leo and even Virgo moving to the western evening skies as the summer stars climb the eastern. By midnight, great Scorpius lurks just to the east of the far southern meridian, Sagittarius not far behind it. Above Scorpius is the giant pentagon that makes Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, and on top of that the hero Hercules. Skimming the southern horizon will be the prominent stars of Lupus, the Wolf.
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