Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured six times on Earth Science Picture of the Day:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6

Trees at dawn

Photo of the Week. Sentinel trees hail the growing dawn, their mates lining the horizon.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 9, 2006.

Skylights' "Picture of the Week" for February 24 was recently featured on the Earth Science Picture of the Day .

Skylights now resumes its normal weekly schedule. Thanks again for your patience.

We begin the week with the Moon just short of its full phase, which will be passed during the day around noon on Sunday, June 11, with the Moon quite out of sight from North America. The night of Saturday the 10th, the Moon will therefore rise just before sundown, while on that of Sunday the 11th, it will rise just after. Early in the week, the Moon encounters Scorpius. The night of Friday the 9th, it will be just west of the three-star head of the Scorpion (marked nicely by bright Dschubba, Delta Sco), while the following evening the Moon will rise just to the east of brighter reddish Antares. (The star actually gets occulted as viewed from parts of South America and Africa.) The rest of the week sees the Moon waning in its gibbous phase as it heads toward third quarter on Sunday the 18th.

During the waning-gibbous journey, the Moon passes south of Neptune on Thursday the 15th. The two large outer planets are ever so slowly separating from each other, Uranus in Aquarius (just southwest of the Circlet of Pisces) moving steadily farther east of Neptune, which lingers in far eastern Capricornus. Even Pluto gets into the act. This very dim, most distant planet (unless you want to count the larger Kuiper Belt object 2003 UB 313 informally called "Xena" that is now three times Pluto's distance from the Sun) is currently near the "triple point" where Serpens, Ophiuchus, and Sagittarius all come together, and goes through opposition with the Sun on Friday the 16th.

Try looking for Mercury, which toward the end of the week lies low in the west northwest down and to the left of Gemini's Castor and Pollux. The best sight will be of Mars and Saturn, as Mars, now to the west of Saturn but moving quickly eastward, prepares to come into close conjunction with the ringed planet (the event taking place on Saturday the 17th). At the same time, the pair will be close to the Beehive Cluster in Cancer, making a great binocular view. Both planets now set around 11:30 PM Daylight Time. Look next to bright Jupiter, which is transiting the meridian around 10 PM, just about as Mercury sets, the giant planet seen to the west of Libra's Zubenelgenubi. The morning hours hold further glory, as far brighter Venus climbs above the eastern horizon just as dawn begins to brighten the sky.

While admiring Jupiter, look to a bit to the west to find first magnitude Spica in Virgo, and then further west to see the distorted box that makes Corvus the Crow. The top two stars of the small but prominent constellation act as pointers to Spica much as the two front bowl stars of the Big Dipper point to the North Star.
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