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!

Venus and Jupiter

Photo of the Week. Memory of Venus and Jupiter, March 18, 2012, with fainter Jupiter dropping down from their earlier conjunction.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, June 8, 2012.

The next Skylights will appear June 22.

Starting at the waning gibbous phase, the Moon passes through third quarter the morning of Monday, June 11. It then fades through morning's eastern waning crescent to new, that phase reached on Tuesday the 19th. Our companion then flips to the other side of the sky, growing as a waxing crescent visible in western evening twilight. Many are the planetary passages. Look the morning of Sunday the 17th to find the Moon just to the northeast of Jupiter, with Venus well down and to the left. A good horizon is necessary, the planets hard to see. Then on the evening of Thursday the 21st, the western sky presents us with a fine line-up, starting with the thin crescent at the bottom, then proceeding up and to the right with Mercury, followed by Pollux, and Castor in Gemini. The Moon also respectively visits north of Neptune and Uranus on Saturday the 9th and Tuesday the 12th. Finally, it passes apogee, where it is farthest from Earth, on Friday the 15th.

Well, not quite finally. On Wednesday the 20th at 6:09 PM CDT (7:09 EDT, 5:09 MDT, 4:09 PDT) the Sun will cross the Summer Solstice in classical Gemini (given modern constellation boundaries technically in eastern Taurus), to announce the first day of astronomical summer. At that time, the Sun will be highest at noon, pass overhead at the Tropic of Cancer, and rise and set as far to the northeast and northwest as possible. Rising and setting as early and late as possible, Wednesday the 20th will be the longest day and will have the shortest night.

Having just passed inferior conjunction with the Sun on June 5th, when it transited across the solar disk for the last time until 2117, Venus now appears low in the bright morning dawn sky. It will get much better as June turns to July. Just half an hour before Venus appears, Jupiter launches itself upward in early dawn, the two planets hard to see. In the evening, though, it's not hard to find Mars and Saturn. Well into the west after dark, Mars now sets around local midnight. South of the hindquarters of Leo, to the southeast of Regulus, Mars crosses the border into Virgo on Thursday the 21st. To the east of Mars and north of Spica, crossing the meridian near sunset, Saturn is already on the western side of the sky as it gets dark, the ringed planet now setting by 2:30 AM or so. Farther west, you might spot Mercury in bright twilight.

The environs of the ecliptic, the apparent solar path, is filled with bright lights. Going to the east (leftward) from Leo's Regulus, we encounter Mars, then the Spica-Saturn pair in Virgo, and end with Antares in Scorpius, which is now making a midnight appearance.
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